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Sheep and goat trade reopens to Saudi Arabia

15 April 2021

The Australian live export industry has received promising news in the past fortnight, with the government and Peak Industry Councils reopening the live export sheep and goat trade to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). This creates an opportunity to develop further trade relations with the Kingdom and provide access to high quality sheep and goats that deliver food security to the nation. It also supports Western Australia’s live export industry and its economy. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the Middle East and North Africa’s largest livestock market, importing nearly 8 million head a year, including goats, cattle, sheep and camels.

Challenges will remain around ensuring the highest quality stock can enter the market, driven by Australia’s world-leading Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS). Light-to-modest export volumes can be expected over the early stages of the program, as producers and industry establish solid supply chain foundations and processes to support development, growth and compliance. This will ensure requirements are satisfied for the trade to develop successfully and that there is welfare assurance for animals and trade sustainability for industry in the long-term.

Australia’s livestock integrity systems are world-class and will be crucial to supporting the long-term viability of the nation’s standing as an export leader. Industry has stated the critical role that the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) will play to satisfy the requirements of meeting compliance around scabby mouth disease and the singular vaccination needed for sheep to be able to enter the Kingdom, as well as the animal health history of all livestock exported.

Domestic headwinds

Initial issues of short-term supply will create a headwind for the early stages of the program as the eastern seaboard’s appetite for restocker sheep and lambs remains high. Price incentives for Western Australian producers to supply these restocker markets are likely to continue, but the new export opportunity may result in them pivoting business operations to take advantage of the reopened market. Over time, eastern demand will subside as the rebuild matures, meaning the WA sheep industry will be able to focus on its long-term opportunity to grow and develop the market to KSA.

© Meat & Livestock Australia Limited, 2021