Exports of sheep, beef and co-products increased by 8 per cent to $8.8 billion for the year to June 2019, according to the latest analysis from the Meat Industry Association.

More than 399,470 tonnes of sheepmeat was dispatched, similar to 2018 volumes, but the value of these exports increased by 6 per cent.

For beef, export volumes were up by 9 per cent to more than 453,202 tonnes with a 13 per cent increase in value. Co-products exports increased by 5 per cent.

For the month of June, beef exports to China increased to more than 25,000 tonnes, more than the annual exports to Taiwan, Japan or Korea.

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The volume of beef exports to Japan also increased by 10 per cent compared to June 2018.

For the first half of this year, since The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) came into force, exports to Japan are up 29 per cent by volume compared to the first half of last year.

While the overall volume of sheepmeat was down for the month compared to last year – including exports to China, the value of exports to China increased by 20 per cent.

Chief executive of the Meat Industry Association, Tim Ritchie. Photo / Supplied
Chief executive of the Meat Industry Association, Tim Ritchie. Photo / Supplied

China remains the largest market by value for red meat and co-products with $319m exported to the country in the month of June 2019, followed by the US and UK.

Tim Ritchie, chief executive of the Meat Industry Association (MIA), said China had again been the lead performer in the last 12 months.

"China has taken more than half of New Zealand's sheepmeat exports and beef exports have increased by 79 per cent by volume, overtaking the US as our largest beef market.

"It's also very pleasing to see we're getting more bang for our buck off sheepmeat exports with value up 6 per cent on last year despite volumes remaining the same."

The weaker UK market in the last 12 months, with overall value down by 11 per cent reflected continuing uncertainty over Brexit, he said.

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"Overall, this is an outstanding result for the sector delivering value for all New Zealanders."

Ritchie said the red meat sector was the country's second largest goods exporter and the largest manufacturing sector.

He said the sector directly employed 25,000 people, mainly in regional New Zealand.

"That means these export figures are good news not only for our national economy, but for regional New Zealand."