WA sheep producers ‘hopeful’ of Saudi trade resumption by end of the year

Aidan SmithCountryman
WA sheep producers are hopeful the live sheep trade to Saudi Arabia will resume before the end of the year.
Camera IconWA sheep producers are hopeful the live sheep trade to Saudi Arabia will resume before the end of the year. Credit: AAP

WA sheep producers are “hopeful” the live export trade to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will resume before the end of the year to provide another alternative market to reduce pressure on the oversupplied local industry.

The Livestock Collective director and Corrigin sheep producer Steven Bolt said the Saudi market, which hasn’t imported live sheep from Australia since 2012, would provide a “huge opportunity” for the industry with the potential to increase export numbers by a million head.

In 2009, Saudi Arabia was Australia’s third largest Middle Eastern market for live sheep, importing more than 576,000 head valued at $55 million.

The trade with Saudi Arabia has been open since 2005, however, no live consignments of live sheep or goats have been exported since 2012 due to the Australian Government’s introduction of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System, which they believed interfered with their sovereignty.

“Before they exited the trade, Saudi were the biggest importer of sheep and for them to recommence the trade is hugely important to us,” Mr Bolt said

“It not only provides another market for us but increases competition which is good for local prices..”

He said an increase in live exports would “clear some of the numbers held on farms” due to a lack of processing space in local abattoirs.

“The industry is hopeful that sometime this year we’ll see sheep make their way into that market,” Mr Bolt said.

Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council chief executive Mark Harvey-Sutton said exporters had been active in Saudi Arabia, working through the Federal Government requirements of ESCAS to be able to start trading.

“Exporters have been working hard to bring them back into the market since they exited in 2012,” Mr Harvey-Sutton said.

“I believe they have the protocols in place.”

He said exporters were waiting on the final approvals from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, which regulates the industry, which could take months.

“There are still details being finalised with the department,” he said.

“The fact that we are going through this process demonstrates the importance of the live sheep trade to the Middle East.

“It enhances our reputation of producing food and fibre globally.”

In April 2021, former Federal agriculture minister David Littleproud said the department had been working with Saudi Arabia on new arrangements to ensure the health and welfare of the exported animals.

A DAFF spokeswoman confirmed that department was “working with relevant exporters” who are putting in place the necessary ESCAS requirements.

“The department will approve exports of sheep and/or goats to Saudi Arabia that meet the regulatory requirements including ESCAS for feeder/slaughter consignments,” the spokeswoman said.

She said exports of live sheep to Saudi Arabia may occur at any time other than when the prohibition of export of sheep to the Middle East is in effect during the Northern Summer from June 1 to September 14.

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