Beef + Lamb New Zealand says the benefits of the free trade agreement with China are mounting, as the meat trade to that country expands.
Chief executive Scott Champion says the New Zealand meat industry sent almost $700 million worth of sheep and beef, as well as skins and by-products to China last year.
And that delivered tariff savings of nearly $25 million back to New Zealand sheep and beef farmers.
Dr Champion says China's importance as a sheepmeat market continues to grow, even while exports overall have declined because of the reduced lamb and sheep supply.
Traditional sheep meat markets such as Europe and the United States are still ahead of China in terms of value, because they take higher-earning products such as lamb legs and French racks.
China is the main market for lower-valued sheep flaps, used in traditional Chinese dishes.