Record lamb export returns in February have bumped up overall meat exports to an all-time monthly high.

Lamb exports were $391million last month, surpassing the previous high of $367million in May last year.

That helped overall meat exports reach a record $839 million, due to the high lamb export values.

The previous high for meat exports was $827 million in March 2015.


The rise in lamb exports was driven by higher prices, as quantity was little changed from May last year, Statistics New Zealand said.

Lamb prices peaked in October last year and remained at high levels, acting international statistics manager Dave Adair said in a statement.

Beef exports were up $43 million in February to reach $311 million, compared with the same month a year ago. While both value and quantity were up, the rise was mainly due to increased quantities.

The Ministry for Primary Industries' latest Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries report said meat and wool export revenues were forecast to increase to $10.1 billion for the year ending June 2019, a 6 per cent increase on last year.

After climbing in the latter half of 2018, export prices for meat products were forecast to remain high through the year ending June 2019.

Strong Chinese demand for lamb and mutton over the past 12 months had helped grow export returns and that demand was expected to continue.

Beff + Lamb New Zealand's chairman Andrew Morrison. Photo / Supplied
Beff + Lamb New Zealand's chairman Andrew Morrison. Photo / Supplied

As a result, lamb and mutton export revenues were forecast to increase by 7.1 per cent and 2.5 per cent respectively, for the year ending June 2019.

Lamb production was forecast to drop due to the downward trend in breeding ewe numbers, although that was being offset in the current season by higher lambing rates and higher slaughter weights.


Strong Chinese demand and constrained global supply for beef and veal should support current high export prices and export revenue was forecast to increase by 4.1 per cent for the year ending June 2019.

Australia's national beef herd was projected to fall to its lowest level since 2000, due to drought.

The herd had also been significantly affected by flooding in Queensland.

Early indications suggested losses would range between 300,000 and 500,000 head, which equated to 1 per cent -2 per cent of the Australian beef herd.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand chairman Andrew Morrison said meat's role in the diet was under scrutiny because of environmental and animal welfare concerns, but there was also growing demand for grass-fed, naturally-raised beef and lamb, which was what New Zealand produced.

''We are uniquely placed to capitalise on these growing trends and more strategically position our product in the market,'' Morrison said.

Farmers attending the organisation's annual meeting in Timaru last week heard about the B+LNZ's Taste Pure Nature country of origin brand which has begun its pilot roll-out in California.