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Rural Bank report: WA farmers expected to exit sheep industry after spring shearing

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Cally DupeCountryman
Sheep on a live export ship.
Camera IconSheep on a live export ship. Credit: Josh Fernandes / The Livestock C/Josh Fernandes / The Livestock C

WA farmers are expected to make a mass exodus out of sheep farming after spring shearing as the Federal Government’s plan to ban live export continues to erode confidence in the sector.

The damning prediction was revealed in Rural Bank’s mid-year agricultural outlook report released on July 4, which also revealed low sheepmeat and wool margins were dampening farmers’ spirits.

Rural Bank head of agribusiness development Andrew Smith said despite live sheep exports significantly declining in recent years, more than 99 per cent of sheep exported last year hailed from WA.

“This accounted for 12 per cent of the State’s sheep and lamb turn off,” he said.

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While more than 1 million head were exported from Australia in 2019, that figure nearly halved to 520,000 head last year — predominantly due to the Federal Government’s ban on live sheep exports during the Middle East’s summer months.

The Albanese Government announced its plan to ban live sheep exports in the lead-up to the March Federal election, but has declined to put a timeframe on the move — saying only that it “won’t occur during this term of government”.

A four-person consultation panel recently wrapped up fourth months of nationwide consultation on the plan, with the goal of reporting back to the Federal Agriculture Minister by September 30.

It will spend the next three months poring over about 4100 public submissions before handing down its recommendations on how and when to phase out WA’s $92 million industry.

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