Australian lamb exports are forecast to increase 4.7%, to 180,000 tonnes swt, in 2012–13, according to the latest Agricultural commodities report released by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES).
Exports to the US are expected to be the main beneficiary of the forecast increase, supported by a contracting US sheep flock and improved economic conditions, while demand from developing markets such as Jordan, Qatar and China are likely to continue to strengthen.
Underpinning the increase in exports is a surge in expected sheep and lamb slaughter as a result of producers in eastern states retaining older breeding ewes and more ewe lambs in their flocks in 2011-12.
Reflecting this retention, lamb markings are forecast to increase 8.4% in 2012-13, to 35 million head – the highest lamb markings since 2004-05.
The increase in lamb availability, coupled with continued strong demand, is forecast to lead lamb slaughter to increase 4.5%, to 19.6 million head, while sheep slaughter is expected to jump 23.6% to 6.4 million head, as producers turn off ewes previously held for rebuilding.
Despite the increase in slaughter, the national sheep flock is forecast to increase by 4.3% to 81 million head.
The weighted average saleyard price for lamb is expected to increase 1% in 2012-13, to 485¢/kg cwt, as greater export and domestic demand offset the effect of an expected rise in lambs offered for sale.
Similarly, the weighted saleyard price for mutton is forecast to increase by 3%, to 340¢/kg cwt.
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