Meat & Livestock News

New Zealand Anticipates Revival of Live Animal Exports with Enhanced Welfare Focus

Young woman with bucket and at the cowshed feeding cows

Coalition Government’s Unified Stance on Export Ban Reversal

New Zealand’s coalition government, comprising the National, ACT, and NZ First parties, has collectively agreed to overturn the Labour government’s ban on live animal exports. This decision, prioritising animal welfare, marks a significant shift in the country’s agricultural policy.

Industry’s Reaction and Economic Context

Mark Willis, the chair of Livestock Export New Zealand, expressed satisfaction with the government’s prioritisation of this issue. He emphasised the industry’s readiness to resume trade under stringent animal welfare regulations.

The live cattle export sector, a vital part of New Zealand’s economy, contributes about $320 million annually to farmers and exporters. In 2021, nearly 135,000 cattle were exported to China, significantly aiding in the development of its dairy herd.

Background and Implications of the Ban

The Labour government’s ban on livestock exports, implemented in April following an independent review, was a response to concerns about potential harm to New Zealand’s animal welfare reputation. The coalition’s decision to reverse this ban is a key element of the agreement between National and NZ First, with ACT also supporting the lift.

Legislative Developments and Future Prospects

It is understood that legislation to reverse the ban could be introduced in Parliament by mid-next year. Willis indicated that the timing of the first shipment under new regulations would depend on the duration of the regulatory design and implementation process, with August 2024 seen as a realistic target for resumption.

Economic Impact of the Ban

An Infometrics economic impact study revealed that the ban led to a net cost to farmers of approximately $49,000 to $116,000 per year for each farm. With 1060 to 2900 farms involved in livestock exports, the overall annual cost to national well-being was estimated at around $475 million in the short term and $320 million ongoing. The ban’s reversal is expected to mitigate these financial impacts, particularly in rural communities.

Federated Farmers’ Perspective

Richard McIntyre, the dairy sector chair of Federated Farmers, welcomed the government’s commitment to reinstating live exports under improved animal welfare standards.

He highlighted New Zealand’s world-leading animal welfare standards and the potential for further enhancements, viewing this development as beneficial for farmers, rural communities, and animals.

Addressing Animal Welfare Misconceptions

Willis addressed misconceptions about animal welfare in livestock exports, asserting that New Zealand’s practices are safe and face minimal welfare challenges. He acknowledged the industry’s commitment to continual improvement and expressed openness to being part of this process.