LAMB exports are expected to surpass domestic consumption this year for the first time in the industry's history.
International demand for Australian lamb, combined with greater production, will push lamb exports up 11 per cent this year to 178,000 tonnes.
But the news will come as cold comfort to the nation's producers, whose returns have dropped dramatically in the past 12 months.
And even the past week has brought little joy to producers, with restocker lambs dropping 70c/kg and light lambs down 42c/kg.
Lamb prices have dived by as much as $20 from week to week, including at Bendigo on Monday.
But the industry could be in even worse shape if it weren't for exports, which are predicted to set a record.
In its update on the sheepmeat industry at Sheepvention on Monday, Meat and Livestock Australia's Tim McRae said Australian lamb exports "continue to push into uncharted territory".
But this has come at a cost - the price paid to producers.
"Australian (lamb) exports have been hit by a range of factors that has impacted the ability to maintain returns," Mr McRae said.
"While the high Australian dollar has been a factor impeding returns for several years, it was offset to some extent throughout 2010 and 2011 by the very tight supply of both Australian and New Zealand product."
Already, lamb exports are up 19 per cent this year but the total value of the bigger amount of lamb sold is the same - $445 million.
The biggest jumps in exports this year were to the Middle East and China, which have taken 55 per cent and 16 per cent more lamb respectively.
Victorian Farmers Federation livestock president Ian Feldtmann said increased exports were good news for producers.
"It's important that the industry continues to develop future markets for future sales in years to come," he said.
"But unfortunately, as we are seeing, the price of lamb sold to a world market is subject to a whole raft of factors, not the least of which is the Australian dollar."
Mr Feldtmann said news of potentially the biggest export year ever for lamb was bittersweet.
"Any fall in saleyard prices for lamb obviously affects the bottom line for producers," he said
Back to News Headlines