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Live export ban blamed for ‘pessimistic’ outlook for WA sheep industry

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Adam PoulsenCountryman
WA sheep producers are more pessimistic about the industry’s future than farmers elsewhere in Australia according to the latest national survey by MLA and AWI.
Camera IconWA sheep producers are more pessimistic about the industry’s future than farmers elsewhere in Australia according to the latest national survey by MLA and AWI. Credit: Bob Garnant/Countryman

WA sheep producers are more pessimistic about the industry’s future than farmers elsewhere in Australia according to the latest national survey, with the blame placed squarely on Federal Labor’s plan to ban live exports.

Meat and Livestock Australia and Australian Wool Innovation on Friday released the results of its triannual Sheep Producer Intentions Survey, revealing a “significant drop” in producer sentiment in WA’s sheepmeat and wool sectors.

This was primarily because of concerns around the future of live sheep exports, the report found.

“While most States remain positive, WA sentiment about the industry has dropped to -48 sentiment points, meaning that more producers are feeling pessimistic about the future of the sheepmeat industry,” an MLA spokesman said.

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“The surveyed producers cited their concerns about the future of the live export of sheep and potentially deteriorating seasonal conditions.”

MLA market information analyst Jenny Lim said while sentiment from producers declined in all States, WA producers’ overall sentiment declined by 90 points since the previous survey last October.

“WA producers are noting that they have extra sheep on-farm, with processors working through a significant backlog and an oversupply of lambs,” she said.

In all, 1958 producers nationwide completed the survey during late April and early May.

The results were then weighted using the latest available Australian Bureau of Statistics data to produce industry estimates.

Overall, producer sentiment was positive, despite net sentiment about the sheepmeat industry having fallen from 68 sentiment points last October to 27 sentiment points in May this year.

About half of respondents nationwide cited weather as the chief concern impacting on-farm decision-making, while 31 per cent cited weather as their main off-farm external factor when it came to running their business.

Producers recorded a three-way split on stock intentions, with about a third each saying they would increase (30 per cent), maintain (38 per cent), or decrease (32 per cent) breeding ewe numbers in the next year.

WA producers were most likely to forecast a decrease in flock size over the next 12 months, while Queenslanders were most likely to forecast an increase.

Of the estimated 46 million breeding ewes on hand, Merinos continued to be the dominant breed at 64 per cent, while first-cross sheep made up 14 per cent and prime lambs 12 per cent.

Producers in WA, SA, NSW and Queensland also reported having a larger proportion of Merinos, while Tasmanian and Victorian producers had lower proportions.

It comes after ANZ’s Winter Agri InFocus Report, released on May 30, forecast sheep prices in Australia were unlikely to rise sharply “for some time”.

This was attributed to a strong recovery in national flock numbers, leading to increased supply on to national markets.

“Producers have cumulatively added around 15 million head to the national flock since the lowest point during the drought, in just three short years,” ANZ Agribusiness associate director Alanna Barrett said.

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