AUSTRALIAN live sheep exports to the Middle East will be suspended over the northern hemisphere summer starting next year.
The Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council says no shipments of Australian sheep will depart any Australian port for the Middle East during the highest heat stress risk period of the northern summer.
Thousands of sheep died on board voyages to the Middle East last year, due to extreme heat stress.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud gave the decision faint praise.
“It would have been better if industry had shown leadership across a broad range of animal welfare matters some years ago,” he says in a statement.
Council chairman Simon Crean says June to August sheep exports to the Middle East are worth A$55 million (£31.8 million) a year.
“The moratorium will, without any doubt, impact farmgate returns,” he says.
But Crean says the moratorium is about maintaining and growing a strong, viable nine-month-a-year live sheep trade and, more broadly, securing the future of Australia’s livestock export industry.
The moratorium will be in place while the industry develops technology that could address the heat risk challenges associated with shipments in June, July and August.
“Potential solutions being developed by the export research and development corporation, Livecorp, include improved detection and avoidance of temperature extremes, and on-board dehumidification,” Crean says.
Sheep exporters also agreed to a programme of transparency and on-board monitoring, to be designed and developed by Livecorp. The programme will improve transparency and communication with producers with regard to on-board conditions and the performance of shipments.
In the seven years from January 2010 to December 2017, Australia’s live sheep exports to the Middle East contributed A$2.06 billion (£1.19 billion) to the Australian economy, exporting 16.6 million sheep over 258 voyages.