Sheep farmers agree northern summer trade halt

Zach RelphCountryman
VideoLive exports during the Northern summer are worth an estimated $55 million.

Australia’s live sheep exports to the Middle East will be placed on ice during northern summers in an attempt to reignite the trade, with exporters opting for a three-month moratorium on voyages.

Livestock exporters informed WA sheep producers on Tuesday of the new three-month moratorium for live sheep shipments to the Middle East during the peak heat stress-risk period.

The halt will be imposed from June 1, 2019, and enforced through Australian Livestock Exporters Council’s recently established mandatory code of conduct.

York sheep producer Peter Boyle, whose business has been financially burdened amid the live export drama, cautiously welcomed the announcement.

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“We will be able to manage it,” he said.

“If this is what it takes to get the trade going, then it is OK.

“It is important to give us security and also show that we are prepared to make concessions to demonstrate that the industry can be viable.”

However, Mr Boyle raised concerns the moratorium would restrict Australia sheep producers from capitalising on the Middle East’s high live sheep demand periods during two Islamic holidays — Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.

Eid al-Fitr, signifying the end of Ramadan, will be held from June 4 to June 5 next year and Eid al-Adha will take place from August 11 to August 15. ALEC independent chairman Simon Crean said the moratorium gave sheep producers confidence the trade would operate for nine months a year.

“The live sheep trade to the Middle East needs to be reset,” he 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.”

Export research and development corporation, LiveCorp, is working to develop new technology which could, potentially, address heat risk challenges endured on shipments in June, July and August, according to Mr Crean.

WAFarmers livestock president David Slade said the the three-month moratorium for the northern summer was a sensible decision in a period when animal welfare was not guaranteed.

“This decision by exporters permits the industry to plan ahead and realign their production and selling options,” he said.

“Shipping over a designated nine-month period will allow the industry to meet contract arrangements.

“Without confidence that the trade will continue, regional communities will suffer as jobs disappear.

“The decision allows the industry time to test new welfare standards to further improve the standards recently adopted.”

Australia’s live sheep industry has remained in limbo since April when footage was broadcast of sheep dead, dying and suffering in sweltering conditions on Emanuel Exports’ Awassi Express vessel travelling to the Middle East.

In June, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources cancelled Emanuel’s export licence.

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