FAO Meat Market Review: Ovine/sheep meat

Global ovine meat output expanded, but international trade fell slightly amid tight export supplies

Editor's note: The following is a portion of the July 2022 FAO Meat Market Review publication summarizing the salient trends and drivers of meat market developments and significant public policy changes in 2021.

World ovine meat output in 2021 reached 16.4 million tonnes, up 1.8 percent year-on-year, with the highest volume increase originating in Asia and South America but partially offset by reductions in Europe and Oceania. In other regions, production remained largely unchanged.

Regarding country-focused production, China, Türkiye, Mongolia, Pakistan and the European Union registered increases, offset by declines in the United Kingdom, the Russian Federation and N ew Zealand. In China, the world’s largest producer, accounting for 31 percent of world production, output increased to 5.1 million tonnes, up 4.4 percent from 2020, the highest growth rates reached in the last 5 years. The entry of small-scale producers, induced by lower pig meat production and high prices in previous years, supported the uptick. Increased ovine meat prices, combined with tight bovine and pig meat supplies, attracted farmers to raise sheep and goats in countries with supportive geographic and policy environments, including Türkiye and Mongolia, parts of Europe, and sub-Saharan Africa. The early end to the COVID-19 social distancing requirements helped resume food services sales, accounting for over 65 percent of ovine meat consumption.

In Oceania, high demand for stock rebuilding, following years of elevated slaughter due to drought conditions, led to output contractions in 2021. In Australia, production increased marginally, as the national flock expanded, supported by improved weather conditions, after declining by 11.4 percent in 2020. In New Zealand, by contrast, ovine meat production fell by 3.8 percent to 444 000 tonnes, reflecting limited availability of animals for slaughter, following high liquidation in 2019-20 amid the drought.

World total exports of ovine meat in 2021 slightly fell (-0.2 percent) from 2020, to 1.1 million tonnes, as many countries reduced imports, with significant declines in the European Union, the United Kingdom, Qatar and Malaysia. In the European Union, the reduction in imports resulted from increased production within the block, high prices and limited growth in the food services sector. Logistical and customs difficulties following Brexit also caused imports from the European Union and the United Kingdom to fall. Imports by many other countries declined, including Qatar and Malaysia, due to tight global supplies and increased international prices.

However, imports by China and the United States rose significantly, driven by increased economic activities, including the revival of food services sales. ASF-related meat supply gap continued to support high volume exports to China. In Australia and New Zealand, trading operations faced considerable challenges from shipping delays, high freight costs, and COVID-19-related disruptions, especially in the first half of 2021. Despite the obstacles, Oceania supplied over 80 percent of the total global exports.

To read the full report, click here.

Reference: FAO. 2022. Meat Market Review 2021. Rome.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

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