Live Sheep Exports – Never More Important

Chilled and frozen meat supply to many countries has significantly reduced or stopped due to the absence of passenger flights previously delivering large volumes from around the world. Now more then ever Australia’s trading partners want food security through live export supply chains. Over the last 40+ years, Australia has exported sheep all year round to many Middle Eastern countries. The largest importers in recent years have been Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Jordon and Oman.  To see more statistics on the number of live exports historically from Australia see LiveLink.

After 2 years of uncertainty for many people both in Australia and internationally the regulator of the livestock export trade in Australia (Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment – DAWE) has released the final requirements for the export of sheep to the Middle East during the Northern Hemisphere summer. Under these new regulations Sheep can only be exported from Australia between 14th of September to the 30th of  May inclusive, there are further restrictions in the shoulder months of May and September which limit the number of discharge ports and further limitations again on specific markets such as Qatar and Oman. The details of these requirements can be found on the DAWE website. The ramifications of these new regulations are large gaps in supply for importing countries and reduce options for Australian sheep producers especially in Western Australia.

The premise of the new requirements is to avoid the risk of heat stress and poor animal welfare outcomes during the typical 12-20 day voyage. The new requirements follow on from the McCarthy review to move away from measuring outcomes based on moralities to measuring animal welfare outcomes.  Over the last 2 years during the uncertainty, there has been significant changes and improvements in the industry that have not had time to stabilise during ongoing regulatory changes and reviews.  Voyages have record low mortality rates and good animal welfare outcomes have been reported by government-appointed Independent Observers and Australia Government Accredited Veterinarians that accompany voyages. These new regulatory requirements above and beyond the requirements seen last year could not have come at a worse time for any supply chain participant let alone our long term trading partners who want food security.

For the many people and communities affected by this trade both in Australia and internationally the release of the final regulatory position on live sheep exports provide some much-needed certainty around dates sheep can be exported from Australia and provides the ability to plan in these uncertain times. The recent Mercado report commissioned by LiveCorp details the effect the moratorium has had on people in the supply chain here in Australia. However, we must also think of the effects more globally. Our trading partners are already sourcing sheep elsewhere and investing in other countries to fill the void Australia has left.

There will always be those opposed to the use of livestock in any way and we can respect each other’s food choices. The red meat supply chain is a valuable part of the nutrition for many people globally. Australia is fortunate to have the ability to meet domestic consumption and share our resources with other countries. The supply chain will continue to improve and Australia will continue to work with our importing partners to ensure we are world leaders.

The Livestock Collective provides a united voice for the livestock supply chain. We care about Australia’s livestock sector from farms through to communities around the world.

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