Next week, on May 24th, New Zealand celebrates the National Lamb Day. 140 years ago, the first frozen sheep meat shipment from New Zealand, with around 5,000 carcasses, arrived in the United Kingdom and the date is celebrated by the country for the importance that this trade has gained, making it a reference in quality lamb protein.
According to Andrew Morrison, chairman of Beef+Lamb New Zealand, during the 2020-21 season, New Zealanders exported over 406,000 tons of sheep meat, valued at US$3.86 billion, to a total of 87 countries. “The sector has also made exceptional productivity gains since the 1990s. Sheep numbers have dropped but lamb export volumes have increased, and greenhouse gas emissions reduced by over 30%.”
Along with Australia and Uruguay, New Zealand exported much of its production to China. 50% of what New Zealand exported in 2019-20 was shipped to the Asian country.
The Chinese are the largest sheep meat producers in the world; however, they cannot meet domestic demand. China is the main destination for sheep meat produced globally and, according to FAO data, imported more than 410,000 tons of the protein just in 2019.