New Zealand exported red meat and co-products worth $738.3 million in January 2021, according to an analysis by the Meat Industry Association (MIA).
This represented a 14 per cent drop compared with January 2020, as there was exceptionally strong demand for beef in China a year ago, ahead of the Covid-19 lockdown.
African Swine Fever was also decimating Chinese pig herds last year, resulting in a surge in demand for other protein.
"Red meat exports hit record levels of $9.2 billion during 2020," MIA chief executive Sirma Karapeeva said.
"The January 2021 results compare favourably with January 2019 under more normal market conditions.
Compared with that period, exports were six per cent higher, Karapeeva said.
"Our industry continues to provide a strong result for the New Zealand economy and for farmers, despite the ongoing global challenges."
Overall, January saw a drop in export value to most major markets, but values to Korea increased by four per cent to $18.6m and by 72 per cent to Indonesia, to $15.1 million.
Volumes of sheepmeat exported dropped by eight per cent year on year.
This was partly due to farmers holding on to lambs longer due to good rain over the Christmas period.
However, the value of sheepmeat exported to China increased by 10 per cent to $173 million.
The volume of beef exports remained similar to last January, down by two per cent, but 35 per cent higher than in January 2019.
Co-products exports rose by 16 per cent, to $128.7m.
The increase in co-product exports was largely driven by a major growth in tallow exports, up 600 per cent to $21.8 million.
China was the major tallow importer, with $14. million, followed by Singapore with $6.7 million.