The live cattle export industry injects about $218 million into WA’s economy every year and employs 966 full-time workers, a new study has revealed, as New Zealand moves ahead with plans to ban the trade. The study by research bodies LiveCorp and Meat and Livestock Australia quantified the benefits of Australia’s live cattle trade nationwide. It found the industry “directly and indirectly” pumped $1.4 billion into Australia’s economy and employed 6573 people in 2020-21, with more than 80 per cent of direct value contributed to northern Australia. Northern Australia also accounted for 82 per cent of all direct employment, and provided 74 per cent of the $1b farm gate value of the trade. LiveCorp chief executive Wayne Collier said the value of the live export sector to northern Australia extended beyond the sale of cattle. “The proximity of northern Australia and having a climate similar to its largest export destinations, particularly in South East Asia, are highly beneficial in terms of transportation costs and animal welfare, and the northern pastoral systems produce the high-quality livestock our trading partners value,” he said. “Conducting this analysis provides up-to-date information to help us better understand the important role the trade plays to the communities and businesses of northern Australia.” In 2020-21, live cattle exports contributed $363 million to the Northern Territory’s economy and employed 1275 full-time equivalent workers; in Queensland, the industry contributed $302 million and employed 1605 people; and in WA, it contributed $218 million and employed 966 people. Just a day after the study’s findings were released, the New Zealand Parliament passed a bill banning the export of all livestock by sea from April 30 next year. NZ Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said the ban, which has been welcomed by the RSPCA, would protect the country’s reputation for “world-leading animal welfare standards”. It comes after the NZ Labour Government announced in April last year it would phase out all live exports by sea over two years. NZ already banned live export for slaughter in 2008, meaning the latest ban will affect the country’s dairy farmers, who last year exported 134,722 cattle for breeding or dairy production purposes, primarily to China. While the NZ Government has claimed the trade generates about $250m for the country’s economy every year, industry leaders have put the figure at closer to $350m. If Australia’s live cattle trade was stopped immediately, the nation’s beef and cattle industry would lose $8.1b over the next 20 years according to ACIL Allen Executive director Jan Paul van Moort, who conducted the LiveCorp and MLA study. “The trade provides up to $88m in value and 614 jobs for professional services industries related to live exports across Australia,” Mr van Moort said. “There are additional flow-on effects to other areas of the economy, such as wholesale and retail trade, health and social services, education, and utilities such as electricity, gas, water and waste. “If Australia’s live cattle exports were to stop immediately, average cattle prices across the country would drop by 2-4 per cent almost immediately and the beef and cattle industry could lose up to $8.1 billion over the next 20 years. “Put another way, based on the current Eastern States Young Cattle Indicator, four per cent would work out to be about $150 less for the average 350kg steer.” Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt has repeatedly shot down speculation by some industry leaders that the Albanese Labour Government will come for the live cattle trade once its announced phase out of the live sheep trade is implemented. The report found northern Australia regularly supplied more than 800,000 head of cattle to live exports annually, with an average of 98,700 cattle shipped from Broome Port and 22,000 cattle shipped from Wyndham Port each year from 2016 to 2021. On average, 68 per cent of cattle exported from Broome went to Indonesia and 23 per cent to Vietnam, with smaller proportions going to Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. Ninety nine per cent of cattle exported from Wyndham went to Indonesia and one per cent to Vietnam. Mr van Moort said the study analysed the value of the industry to 18 regions, from the Pilbara to the Bowen Basin. “The distribution of the economic contribution varied, with three regions — Katherine, Barkly and the Kimberley — together contributing around half the value and the employment,” he said. “As well as the value of the cattle, the contribution is measured by the industry’s impact on things like wages, salaries, profits and taxes.” The live export industry produces 31.6 per cent of the Kimberley region’s gross value of agricultural production, representing 7.8 per cent of gross regional production, according to the report. Mr van Moort said if a ban were implemented, it was expected Australian producers would adapt by focusing on the domestic cattle market and pursuing other land uses. “However, many producers would face a reduction in the price per kilogram for meat at processing, compared to what they achieve from selling to live export until they adapt,” he said.