Live sheep export trade on track to reach three-year high at more than 600,000 head

Aidan SmithCountryman
Sheep aboard Al Messilah at Fremantle Port in 2019.
Camera IconSheep aboard Al Messilah at Fremantle Port in 2019. Credit: Cally Dupe/RegionalHUB

Live sheep exports have bucked the trend in 2023 and are on a trajectory to reach a three-year high by the end of the year.

According to Meat and Livestock Australia’s LiveLink October Monthly Trade Summary, live sheep exports have risen 58 per cent from January 1 to October 31, to reach 535,179 head.

Liberal agriculture spokesman Steve Martin MLC chats with farmer Chris Patmore from Eneabba at the Muchea Livestock Centre.
Camera IconLiberal agriculture spokesman Steve Martin MLC chats with farmer Chris Patmore from Eneabba at the Muchea Livestock Centre. Credit: Daniel Wilkins/The West Australian

A Department of Agriculture spokeswoman said there had been “a general increase in livestock exports to all markets” in 2023, and consignments that met the regulated requirements continued to be approved.

There were 55,144 sheep exported in October alone, up six per cent year on year.

Pastoralists and Graziers Association livestock committee chairman and Eneabba sheep producer Chris Patmore said it was a “good news story” for the industry and sent a “strong message to the Government” of how valuable the industry can be.

Episode3 director Matt Dalgleish.
Camera IconEpisode3 director Matt Dalgleish. Credit: Episode3/Episode3

Matt Dalgleish, co-founder of market analysts Episode3, said the Middle East was “price sensitive” and the low Australian sheep prices were attractive to importers.

“It was no surprise to see a return to trade in October with a good volume going through again,” Mr Dalgleish said.

“September was not as strong as I thought, given how low sheep prices were.”

He said with Saudi Arabia looking to re-enter the market after pulling out in 2012, it would be “interesting to see how much they engage” in the trade.

The majority of sheep exports have been supplied to Kuwait, Israel, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Oman, which have all seen numbers increase this year.

Kuwait received 243,458 head, up 15 per cent year on year, while Israel took 91,100, up 139 per cent. Jordan has bounced back with 67,444 head — making it the highest in three years — while exports to the UAE were up 44 per cent to 59,500.

While Oman received just 47,946 head, that was its highest number since 2017 and was up 140 per cent year-on-year.

The live sheep trade declined in numbers from 1.8 million head in 2017 to 502,758 in 2022.

In 2023 up to 99 per cent of the trade was from sheep sourced from WA.

According to MLA research based on a five year average from 2017-2018 to 2021-2022, the annual value of the live sheep export trade was $143 million, with a total value of $71 million added to the WA economy.

The trade accounts for about 17 per cent of WA sheep turn-off each year, with about 95 per cent of sheep being wethers.

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