China overtook the United States as the biggest market for New Zealand beef exports in 2019, the statistics department Stats NZ said on Thursday.
In the year ended December 2019, beef exports to China rose 112 percent from 2018 to reach 1.7 billion NZ dollars (1.1 billion U.S. dollars). In contrast, beef exports to the United States fell 20 percent to 956 million NZ dollars (622 million U.S. dollars).
"China became the number one destination for beef exports from New Zealand in 2019," international statistics manager Darren Allan said in a statement.
"In 2019, nearly half of the total value and quantity of beef exports were sent to China. Around a quarter were exported to the U.S., reversing the figures for 2018 when it was the top destination," Allan said.
The average unit values of beef exports for the December 2019 year to China and the United States both rose, by 12 percent and 15 percent, respectively, statistics showed.
"The total value of beef exports to overseas markets was up in 2019, with higher prices and greater volumes," Allan said.
China leads the increase in New Zealand exports, he said, adding that of the country's main export markets, China had the largest increase in annual exports, up 21 percent from 2018.
Exports to China were the leading contributor to New Zealand's annual increases in several primary sector export commodities in 2019, including dairy products, beef, lamb, fish, and fruit, Stats NZ said.
Exports to China have risen strongly in the last three years, and now make up 28 percent of New Zealand's total value of exports, up from 24 percent a year earlier, it said.