The live sheep export sector is back in the news as the confusion surrounding the Australian Labour Party’s policy on a proposed phase out grows. On Friday (6th May) Anthony Albanese appeared to back track on earlier reports that the live sheep sector would be phased out should they win the upcoming election. However, a look at the live sheep export flows seen so far in 2022 highlights that whatever the policy we need the demand to be there.
Kuwait has been the dominant destination market for Australian live sheep exports, with their market share of the trade growing steadily since 2018. This year Kuwait has taken 66% of the volumes exported. March 2022 saw no live sheep exports to Kuwait and total trade flows tanked, with just 9,495 head reported exported for the month.
February 2021 saw a similar dip in total flows when Kuwait took no volumes. The five-year average trend for March shows we would normally be sending approximately 130,000 head. The northern hemisphere summer moratorium to the trade is due to begin in June, when the live sheep exports to the Middle East halt for three months. The sector really needs to make the most of the time either side of the moratorium to keep live sheep flows going, to enable the industry to remain sustainable. Such low volumes, as seen in March 2022, are not an encouraging sign.