Demand for Australian sheepmeat, from China and the US in particular, was exceptionally strong in 2019, supported by a depreciating Australian dollar. This strong international demand helped underpin record lamb and mutton prices.
Lamb and mutton prices surged to record levels this winter as lower domestic supply met with robust international demand. Producers with livestock to sell were buoyed by the elevated prices as processors competed extensively to secure product and satisfy export demand. However, the majority of Australian sheep producers are still managing heavily depleted breeding flocks and heightened feed costs as severe drought conditions continue.
Water shortages have reached a critical point for large parts of the east coast, with regional towns in northern NSW now under water restrictions as councils seek to ration limited water supplies. Producers in these regions face an increasingly difficult and expensive burden in sourcing water for livestock, with many opting to further destock and not join their ewes on hand.