Mixed picture in the US lamb market


Cold storage levels are still high, while exports are rebounding slowly

Posted on Sep 03 ,11:28

Mixed picture in the US lamb market

Dining-out restrictions in the US market are impacting lamb sales and production, as cold storage levels are higher compared to 2019 and exports are slowly rebounding. Australia and New Zealand as the main suppliers of lamb in the US are in a difficult position as the market doesn't seem to be as consistent as a year ago. "Prices for retail cuts of lamb, such as shoulder and leg, are holding up quite well and should remain steady as home cooking continues to drive demand. Unfortunately, prices for foodservice items, such as lamb racks, are well back on year-ago levels. This demand has been reflected in Australian export statistics, with year-to-July exports of leg and shoulder up 6% and 9% respectively to 2019 levels, while exports of rack and shank are back 3% and 29% respectively on 2019 levels. Import demand for the remainder of 2020 will largely hinge on dining-out restrictions, combined with the economic impact of COVID-19. In terms of import prices, end of year holiday demand could provide some support," reports Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA).
On the other hand, US feedlot inventories remain low, with lambs on feed in Colorado feedlots at 1 August estimated at 45,800 head, 35% below than the five-year average. US sheepmeat production is now estimated at 38,000 tonnes cwt for the year-to-August, back 8.5% on 2019 levels and demand in the export market has dropped significantly over the first 6 months of the year. June exports of US lamb were the largest of 2020 at 2,289 tonnes, up 113% from a year ago, while value climbed 29% to $2.23 million (second largest of the year, following March). First-half export volume was nearly even with last year at 7,752 tonnes, though value was down 21% to $10.43 million. Growth in June was led by a large increase in both muscle cut and variety meat exports to Mexico, the leading destination for US lamb. Exports have also trended higher this year to Hong Kong and Kuwait, according to the US Meat Export Federation.

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