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NZ lead way to diversify sheep exports

Zach RelphCountryman
New Zealand has established a $NZ3.8 billion sheepmeat export market.
Camera IconNew Zealand has established a $NZ3.8 billion sheepmeat export market. Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

New Zealand’s animal welfare regulator says diversification cemented the country’s almost $4 billion sheepmeat exports since it banned live sheep shipments in 2003.

As Opposition Leader Bill Shorten threatens to close Australia’s live sheep industry within five years, if elected at May’s Federal election, sheep producers are fearing the end of live exports.

However, New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries trade policy manager Fiona Duncan said the nation had established a $NZ3.8 billion ($3.6 billion) sheepmeat export market in the wake of ending its live trade in 2003.

The final nail in the coffin for New Zealand’s live industry came when Saudi Arabia rejected 57,000 sheep aboard MV Cormo Express due to deteriorated health.

New Zealand cited risks associated with the live exporting as too significant to continue shipping to the Middle East.

It stopped the live export of cattle in 2007.

Ms Duncan said New Zealand’s sheepmeat market had since developed into a viable trade with growing demand from China, the UK and USA.

“The overall value of our sheepmeat exports continues to increase year-on-year,” Ms Duncan told Countryman.

“By volume or weight New Zealand now exports more sheep meat to Asian markets than we do to our traditional European markets.”

Australia’s live sheep sector is in limbo ahead of the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources’ scheduled three-month northern summer shipment ban from June 1 to August 31.

The standstill, announced on March 28, is among the animal welfare regulator’s responses to strengthen animal welfare standards after last year’s Awassi Express scandal.

It follows the self-enforced three-month moratorium for Middle East shipments, announced by the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council last December.

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