Meat & Livestock News

Live Sheep Export Uncertainty Affects Investment Amid Emerging New Markets


  • Uncertainty around the Australian government’s timeline for phasing out live sheep exports by sea is impacting investment decisions in the industry.
  • New potential markets for Australian sheep and cattle are emerging in Morocco, Iraq, and Iran, but political instability and slow governmental negotiations are hindering progress.
  • The industry seeks clarity on the phase-out report and timeline to make informed decisions on investments and market expansions.

The Australian live sheep export industry is currently facing a period of uncertainty due to the Federal Government’s proposed timeline for phasing out live sheep exports by sea. This uncertainty is affecting investment decisions at a time when new markets for Australian sheep and cattle are beginning to emerge.

Geoff Pearson, president of the WAFarmers Livestock Council, and representatives from the Western Australian Livestock Exporters Association (WALEA) have expressed their concerns, particularly after a meeting with Minister for Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt in Perth, which provided no new insights into the phase-out plan.

Ashley James, vice chairman of WALEA, highlighted the challenges faced by exporters and lot feeders due to the lack of a clear timeline, which is necessary for making decisions on vessel refurbishment or replacement and facility upgrades. Despite the demand from Middle Eastern clients and the willingness of exporters and farmers to engage with new markets, the industry is in limbo.

Negotiations for new health certificate protocols with Morocco, Iraq, and Iran are underway, but progress has been slow. Morocco, in particular, represents a promising new market for Australian sheep, potentially ready to import significant numbers. However, political instability in Iraq and Iran and slow bureaucratic processes are delaying the establishment of these new trading relationships.

The industry’s concerns extend beyond market expansion to the implications of the government’s phase-out policy on other commodity sectors, such as the regulation of glyphosate for livestock farmers transitioning to cropping. The meeting with Minister Watt was described as disappointing by industry representatives, who are seeking clarity on the phase-out report and timeline to plan for the future effectively.

This period of uncertainty underscores the need for clear communication and decisive action from the government to ensure the Australian live sheep export industry can navigate the challenges ahead and capitalise on emerging opportunities in new markets.