Australian sheep exporters to stop shipments to Middle East for 3 months each year

Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Australian livestock exporters have today written to Western Australian sheep producers, advising of a new three-month moratorium in sheep shipments to the Middle East during the Northern Hemisphere summer.

The moratorium, to take effect from 1 June 2019, will mean no shipments of Australian sheep will depart any Australian port for the Middle East during the highest heat stress risk period of the northern summer.

The move comes amid widespread public anger in Australia after footage emerged showing the death of 2,400 sheep on a ship bound for the Middle East, prompting calls for the entire trade to be prohibited.

Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council independent chairman Simon Crean said the moratorium would provide certainty to sheep producers who supply the trade, and was just one initiative which was part of wider ranging industry reforms.

“This is about maintaining and growing a strong, viable nine-month-a-year live sheep trade and, more broadly, securing the future of Australia’s livestock export industry,” Mr Crean said.

Exporters will observe the moratorium while the industry develops new technology which could, in the future, address the heat risk challenges associated with shipments in June, July and August.

“Potential solutions being developed by the export research and development corporation, Livecorp, include improved detection and avoidance of temperature extremes, and on-board dehumidification,” Mr Crean said.

In addition to the moratorium, sheep exporters have agreed to initiate a program of transparency and on-board monitoring, to be designed and developed by LiveCorp. The program will improve transparency and communication with producers with regard to on-board conditions and the performance of shipments.

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In the seven years from January 2010 to December 2017, Australia’s live sheep exports to the Middle East contributed $2.06 billion to the Australian economy, exporting 16.6 million sheep over 258 voyages.

While more than three-quarters of Middle East sheep voyages in the past seven years have recorded mortalities of less than one per cent, the majority of the 20 voyages when mortalities were above 1.5pc occurred in the June to August northern summer period.

“The live sheep trade to the Middle East needs to be reset,” Mr Crean said.

“June to August sheep exports to the Middle East are worth $55 million per annum, so the moratorium will, without any doubt, impact farm gate returns. But this decision shows the genuine care exporters have for livestock – values we share with producers – and our commitment to the industry’s future.”

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