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Kuwait, Qatar keep on building in importance

Zach RelphThe West Australian
Camera IconCredit: John Henderson / The West Australian

Kuwait and Qatar have firmed as Australia’s major live sheep markets, with the two Middle Eastern nations accounting for almost 70 per cent of all shipments last year.

According to Department of Agriculture data, 1.07 million sheep departed Australia via sea last year, mostly from the Fremantle Port to the Middle East.

Kuwait took the most Australia-bred sheep from sea voyages, acquiring 385,120 live sheep from eight shipments, to mark a 35 per cent year-on-year rise.

Qatar took 334,699 live sheep last year, notching a 2.9 per cent spike year-on-year.

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The two countries accounted for 67 per cent of all of Australia’s sheep shipments in 2019. It comes after Kuwait took 285,184 head and Qatar imported 325,000 live sheep the year previous.

WA Livestock Exporters’ Association chairman John Cunnington welcomed the figures and said he was confident Australia would remain a reliable live sheep supplier from Middle Eastern markets.

“There was positive demand from Kuwait and Qatar,” he said.

“Hopefully this year, there will be more certainty for our customers, especially with KLTT (Kuwait Livestock Transport and Trading) acquiring another vessel.”

Live-sheep exports to Jordan also soared 63 per cent last year, with five voyages taking 188,781 head to the Arab nation.

Shipments to Israel dropped dramatically, with only 43,719 sheep shipped, to record a 30 per cent year-on-year fall.

Two live-sheep shipments travelled to Russia in February last year, one departing Fremantle carrying 9073 head and the other leaving Portland Port in Victoria with 2650 head aboard.

A vessel also set sail from Fremantle in April, with 4997 sheep en route to Malaysia.

In addition to the live-sheep voyages, there were 41,505 live sheep transported from Australia via air last year.

The figures come after Australia’s live-sheep trade had a shipping moratorium from June 1 to September 22 last year, as regulators address the trade’s heat-stress issues.

Meat and Livestock analysis noted demand for freshly slaughtered sheep will remain across key markets in the Middle East.

However, the MLA report warned “future sheep exports from Australia will hinge on the regulatory environment the trade operates under”.

The Federal Government’s decision on this year’s live-sheep shipping standstill is expected in March.

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