The monthly value of New Zealand red meat and co-product exports for April was largely unchanged from the same month last year despite COVID-19, according to an analysis by the Meat Industry Association (MIA).

New Zealand exported $859 million of lamb, mutton, beef and co-products in the month of April. While the overall value of exports was broadly similar compared to April 2019, there were changes to some major markets due to the impact of COVID-19.

Total exports to the United Kingdom were down 27 per cent to $39.6 million compared to last April and down 30 per cent to Germany ($22 million).

Exports to China continued to recover, up 16 per cent to $353.6 million. There were also increases for other Asian markets, in particular Japan, with total exports up 66 per cent to $46.8 million and Taiwan up 36 per cent ($36.4m), compared to last April.

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Export values of both chilled sheepmeat and beef dropped compared to last April, down 35 per cent to $52.7 million for sheepmeat and 19 per cent to $30.1 million for beef, reflecting the challenges of exporting perishable products during the trade disruptions caused by Covid-19.

However, exports of frozen sheepmeat were largely unchanged from last April at $300.7 million and frozen beef exports increased 16 per cent to $329.7 million.

Chief executive of the Meat Industry Association, Sirma Karapeeva. Photo / Supplied
Chief executive of the Meat Industry Association, Sirma Karapeeva. Photo / Supplied

Japan was the stand-out beef market for April with exports worth $24.4 million, up by a massive 87 per cent compared to last April.

The beginning of April also saw a further reduction on the tariff rates on beef into Japan under the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), and the tariff savings on New Zealand beef exports to Japan now total around $32 million.

Sirma Karapeeva, chief executive of the Meat Industry Association, says New Zealand has continued to demonstrate adeptness at navigating the ongoing market volatility.

"Our industry is benefiting from the strong and enduring relationships across different markets and this has allowed us to weather the COVID-19 storm.

"Whilst there is some softening of prices, demand is now increasing for prime cuts. The natural grass-fed attributes of New Zealand red meat is giving us an advantage. There is a premium to be gained from leveraging the New Zealand story, ensuring it is credible and backed by quality assurance.

"The silver lining of this crisis is that it's providing our industry more opportunities to look at different channels to market such as retail. Processing and exporting companies are out there exploring these and other options."

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In March 2020, total monthly red meat exports topped $1 billion for a single month for the first time ever.