WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND — Despite the difficult global economy, export figures indicate New Zealand lamb and beef prices continue to grow stronger. For the first six months of the export year (October 2008 to March 2009), export lamb returns were up 27% to $8,670 per tonne, when compared with the same six month period in the previous year, according to Meat & Wool New Zealand and the Meat Industry Association. Export beef returns increased 22% to $5,420 per tonne.

This was especially positive news in the current trading environment, said Mike Petersen, chairman of Meat & Wool New Zealand. "While there has clearly been a contraction in lamb supply, this industry is producing a top-end, high value-added consumer-ready product. And because of this, we have avoided the commodity slump that has affected many other industries," he added.

New Zealand lamb had been able to more than hold its position in spite of the recession because meat companies were delivering a quality product — the premium positioning of which was supported by farmer levy-funded promotion, said Bill Falconer, chairman of the Meat Industry Association.

"Farmers are delivering quality lambs, processors are turning those into a high-value product and farmer-funded promotion is enhancing companies’ own product positioning in key markets," he added.

During the past year, lamb prices staged a remarkable recovery and farm gate returns have increased nearly 60% from this time last year, reflecting the more export-friendly New Zealand dollar value and the continued growth of higher-value chilled sendings to New Zealand’s key export markets, Mr. Falconer said. The current average farm gate price for a 19 kg lamb is around $105 net. Last year the same lambs were fetching about $67.

These improvements can be sustained, Mr. Petersen believes. "The sector partnerships are delivering for farmers and we are confident that we can continue to build on this," he added. "Food production is New Zealand’s comparative advantage, and lamb, along with other meat exports is playing a key role in keeping the engine room of the New Zealand economy ticking over."