While some people may have shied away from lamb on their Australia Day barbecue due to the cost in the supermarket or at the butcher when compared to other red and white meats, the consumption of lamb overall appears to have stabilised in recent years.
Meat and Livestock Australia’s January Sheep Industry Projections released last week indicate per capita lamb consumption has stabilised at about 9kg.
Australia continues to be one of the largest per capita consumers of sheepmeat in the world and MLA has predicted our taste for lamb will remain stable in coming years.
At the same time, the average retail price of lamb for the first nine months of 2017 was $14.82 a kilogram and MLA said this figure exceeded the previous record highs recorded in 2011.
Lamb continues to capture the third largest value share of fresh meat protein in the retail space ahead of pork and seafood, but behind beef and chicken.
That’s quite an achievement for the lamb industry as MLA also said lamb's retail price had more than doubled since 2000, while the price of chicken, for example, had only gone up by 12 per cent.
And considering the domestic consumer accounted for close to 45 per cent of lamb production, MLA said maintaining domestic preference for lamb would be crucial into the future.
On the export front, lamb recorded a new high at 251,000 tonnes (shipped weight) last year.
While current supplies of lamb remain tight, placing pressure on price for overseas customers, MLA said the long-term fundamentals remained positive for the Australian industry.
As a result, MLA has forecast Australian lamb exports in 2018 to slip slightly year-on-year, to 241,000t.
But even with a predicted dip in lamb exports, this estimate was still four per cent above the five-year average.
The future’s even brighter for lamb exports into 2019 as it’s forecast shipment volumes will hit new highs as production lifts and demand grows in developing countries in Asia and the Middle East, as well as developed economies such as the US and Korea.