Meat & Livestock News

2023 Marks a Year of Revival for Australian Live Exports


  • Australian live exports experienced a notable uptick in 2023, with cattle exports increasing by 12% to 670,791 and sheep exports by 22% to 593,514.
  • Indonesia and Kuwait emerged as the primary markets for Australian live cattle and sheep, respectively.
  • The year marked the reinitiation of live sheep exports to Saudi Arabia, a significant development after more than a decade’s hiatus.

The year 2023 stood out as a period of significant growth for Australia’s live export sector. The industry saw an uplift in the number of live cattle and sheep exported, indicating a robust recovery and a positive trajectory. This resurgence is particularly noteworthy given the challenges faced in previous years, underscoring the sector’s resilience and strategic market engagements.

Cattle Exports Surge Amidst Global Demand

The cattle export segment witnessed a 12% increase from the previous year, with a total of 670,791 head of cattle exported. This growth signifies the first annual increase since 2019, although it still trails the five-year average by 27%. The month of December alone saw an impressive 86,186 head of cattle exported, marking the highest monthly figure for the year and the largest December export since 2019.

Indonesia retained its position as the leading importer of Australian live cattle, accounting for 54% of the total exports. The stability and slight growth in exports to Indonesia reflect a continued demand in their feeder market. Other notable markets included Vietnam, which saw a significant 118% increase in imports, and Israel, with a 149% increase, showcasing the diversification of Australia’s cattle export destinations.

Sheep Exports Experience a Renaissance

The live sheep export sector also demonstrated remarkable growth, with a 22% increase in exports, culminating in 593,514 head of sheep exported. This uplift, the only annual increase in the last five years, marks a pivotal moment for the industry. December’s exports were particularly strong, contributing to this positive trend.

Kuwait remained the top destination for Australian live sheep, despite a slight decrease compared to previous years. The year also saw Jordan making significant strides, with a 411% increase in imports, highlighting the dynamic nature of the global market for Australian sheep.

A New Chapter with Saudi Arabia

A highlight of 2023 was the resumption of live sheep exports to Saudi Arabia in December, a milestone event marking the first such exports in over a decade. This initial shipment of 5,000 head of slaughtered sheep represents a promising development for future trade relations and market expansion.

Looking Ahead

The year 2023 has been instrumental in showcasing the potential and resilience of Australia’s live export industry. With renewed market engagements and the opening of new trade avenues, the sector is poised for further growth and diversification in the years to come.