Live trade exporters fear long-term impact of sheep ship density limit

Zach RelphCountryman
Fewer sheep will be permitted on vessels to the Middle East when the northern summer ends on November 1.
Camera IconFewer sheep will be permitted on vessels to the Middle East when the northern summer ends on November 1. Credit: Animals Australia

One of WA’s major agricultural lobby groups fears the Federal Government’s decision to reduce live export stocking densities for sheep outside the northern hemisphere window will compromise the trade’s long-term viability.

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources revealed last week in a long-awaited announcement that 17.5 per cent fewer sheep would be permitted on vessels to the Middle East when the northern summer ends on November 1.

The stocking density decrease, which is reduced from the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock’s current standards, will apply until new-look ASEL standards are enforced early next year.

Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA livestock chairman Chris Patmore, a Mid West sheep farmer at Perenjori and Eneabba, disputed the reduction and said it would inflict economic hurt across sheep producers.

“It is going to reduce the viability of the trade — hopefully not to the point where you can’t make a return from it,” he said.

“Any reduction in stocking densities, other than during the northern summer, is unnecessary.

“If it doesn’t reduce the trade, it does reduce the price the farmers will receive ... the repercussions will come back to us.”

DAWR’s revised stocking densities also drew criticism from the RSCPA. However, the animal welfare body said the new standards did not allow enough space for sheep, with senior policy officer Jed Goodfellow saying the conditions had no scientific basis.

A DAWR spokesman said the latest ASEL review, undertaken by a technical advisory committee, would update export standards “according to the best possible scientific evidence, looking at the trade all year round”.

The DAWR spokesman said submissions would be made public “in the near future”.

Mr Patmore said PGA had considered calling for three different stocking density standards to apply to live sheep voyages during the calendar year.

The sheep producer said there was scope for a lower stocking density during the northern summer below the current restrictions enforced after the McCarthy review.

He also said restrictions on either side of the northern summer could be slightly reduced, while the traditional ASEL regulations could be followed for the rest of the year.

Rural Export and Trading WA is understood to have its live export licence approved by the Department of Agricultural and Water Resources in the coming weeks.

RETWA general manager Mike Gordon has previously flagged a loaded sheep vessel to depart the State en route to the Middle East within three weeks of receiving the green light.

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