EXPORTS of Australian lamb could be headed for an all-time record month during October, Meat and Livestock Australia figures show.
From October 1-18, lamb exports were already at 11,000 tonnes shipped weight. If they continue at the same rate, they could top more than 18,000t for the month.
The previous highest was 17,800t in October 2007. Exports have only been higher than 17,000t at one other point in MLA’s records – May this year.
But the potential for the record follows a lean September, where exports were down eight per cent on the previous year to 14,036t - the first year-on-year fall for 2012.
MLA chief economist Tim McRae said the fall could have been due to two reasons – supply chain issues for exporters or an increase in domestic market consumption in Australia with spring marketing campaigns by MLA and supermarkets under way.
The Middle East and China had been taking more Australian lamb this year.
Mr McRae said lamb slaughter numbers had remained consistent so far in October.
From January to August, there were 1.4 million head slaughtered, up 12 per cent year-on-year.
He said it was the fourth highest total for that period since 1970, but the extra numbers were from slaughtering stock from two good seasons, rather than drought.
“I think the higher exports for October is largely due to the increased production numbers, but there have been some small indications of an improvement in global demand … but coming from a low base,” he said.
The forecast for lamb slaughtering in 2012 was 19.5m head but it could go as high as 20m head.
Mr McRae said this would be determined by how dry the season remained. With more lambs on the ground because of previous good seasons, it was affecting buying intentions of farmers with higher stock numbers and was responsible for the increased lamb slaughter numbers.
“Given the drier run throughout the past three months, many livestock producers face increasing pressure upon pasture and feed supplies – accentuated by the larger numbers being carried following the past two wet years,” he said.
Meanwhile, MLA says New Zealand lamb production in August fell 20pc year-on-year, to 13,825t carcaseweight. This was because of a 21pc decrease in slaughter, to 692,025 head - the lowest monthly result since August 2010.
But from January to August this year, NZ lamb production was 264,923t – 4pc higher than the same period in 2011.
Provisional figures show NZ lamb slaughter for the year ending September were 18.9m head – down 2pc on last year.
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