Global Demand for Small Ruminant Products
A dynamic world market continues to evolve for the products of small ruminants. Small ruminants, for this paper are restricted to sheep and goats. While we may focus on lamb and sheep meat, other products including goat meat, wool, mohair, and cashmere remain important.
Several factors are at work in today’s global market for small ruminant products. As usual, they are the classic factors that affect the demand for any product: the product’s own price, consumer incomes, the prices of competing goods, and changing tastes and preferences. Fueled by growth of the Chinese economy and incomes, Chinese sheep meat imports have surged in recent years. In 2012, China overtook France as the world’s largest importer of sheep meat, by volume. China imports primarily lower value cuts so that the average value of the Chinese sheep meat imports is lower than that of Northern European and U.S. markets. Nevertheless, the average value of Chinese sheep meat imports is growing.
A better picture of the changing market requires a look at supply as well as demand factors impacting the market. Global sheep flock numbers remain just below the 2007 peak of about 1.1 billion head although some growth in flocks did begin to occur again in 2011. China has the world’s largest flock at 139 million head. Global sheep meat production has grown by 20% over the last decade, however, due to increases in productivity. The major meat exporting countries of Australia and New Zealand are in the top ten ranking by flock size. Production in those countries has been hampered by drought, volatile prices, and the profitable economics of competing enterprises like dairy and milk production. U.S. sheep meat production has declined by 35% over the last decade.
Although decreased global wool production has led to higher prices in recent years, those prices have been tempered by the effects of the world-wide recession on demand. The demand for relatively high priced fibers has struggled during the recession and economic recovery.
Overall, the global market for small ruminant market continues to evolve. Trade flows between countries are changing as incomes rise and production patterns shift.
sheepmeat, wool, China