Meat & Livestock News

Australian Government to Enhance Meat Processing Sector with Live Sheep Export Phase-Out, Agriculture Minister Announces

Healthy, purebred Sheep on a farm

In a recent address to the Australian Meat Industry Council’s Meat Processing and Export Conference, Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt affirmed the government’s commitment to phasing out live sheep exports.

This policy, he stated, is expected to bolster Australia’s meat processing sector by increasing the number of sheep processed domestically, particularly benefiting processors in Western Australia.

Minister Watt assured that the transition would be managed in an orderly fashion to minimise the impact on producers, particularly in Western Australia.

He cited the already declining numbers in live exports and the corresponding rise in sheep meat exports, including to the Middle East, as indicators of the sector’s capacity for growth and value addition.

The minister acknowledged challenges such as labour shortages and housing, assuring that the government would take time to implement the policy carefully, considering the recommendations of a recent report from an independent panel.

Additionally, Minister Watt discussed the recent changes to biosecurity funding, emphasising the shared responsibility across the industry. From July 2023, biosecurity funding will be split almost equally between taxpayers and importers. A new levy from July 2024 will seek a modest contribution from primary producers to support the biosecurity system.

Addressing workforce issues, Minister Watt highlighted the outcomes of last year’s Jobs and Skills Summit, including over 13,000 Fee-Free TAFE places for locals in agriculture courses and the inclusion of 18 certificates and advanced diplomas related to meat processing on the apprenticeship priority list.

He also mentioned the government’s advocacy for a national Food Supply Chain Capacity Study and the development of a new Ag Trade Apprenticeship.

The Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme has reached record participation, with over 38,000 workers in Australia, including over 10,000 in meat processing. Recent changes now allow processors in urban areas to employ PALM workers.

The government is also taking steps to improve worker conditions and pay, including closing labour hire loopholes and raising the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold from $53,900 to $70,000.

Lastly, Minister Watt noted that the discrepancies between low sale yard livestock prices and high retail meat prices will be examined in the government’s review of the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct.

The review will scrutinise the transparency of dealings between retailers, wholesalers, and suppliers, with an aim to ensure fair pricing and commercial practices across the board.