12 Nov 2013

China factor 'requires balancing act' in meat exports

7:28 am on 12 November 2013

A senior meat industry commentator and consultant says the industry has a balancing act on its hands as it reponds to the demands of New Zealand's biggest sheepmeat market, China.

A combination of fewer lambs to process this season and changes in market requirements is putting new pressure on the industry.

China which has rapidly overtaken the UK as the number one market, is looking for lamb products that aren't further processed to the extent that cuts for European markets are.

As a result, one company, Silver Fern Farms, is considering keeping its Silverstream plant near Dunedin closed this season, because there's likely to be less need for the sort of downstream processing done there.

Industry commentator Allan Barber says that's where the balancing act comes in, because Britain and the rest of Europe and North America will still want their usual supplies.

"Exporters are now faced with the prospect of choosing which markets they want to send their products to,'' Mr Barber says.

"The Chinese market is one which can give them effectively greater profitability for less input".

"So then it becomes a balancing act".

"If China's prepared to pay the money, do they put all their product into China or ... only put a certain amount into China, without jeopardising their traditional UK/US/EU/Canadian markets?"

Silver Fern Farms will decide next week what it is doing with its Silverstream plant at Mosgiel, which operates as an satellite facility, further processing lamb from works in Canterbury and South Otago.