Australian livestock exporters have written to Western Australian sheep producers, advising of a new three-month ban on sheep shipments to the Middle East during the Northern Hemisphere summer.
The ban, which will take effect from June 1 next year, will mean 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.
Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council chair Simon Crean said the ban would provide certainty to sheep producers who supply the trade, and was just one initiative which was part of wider ranging industry reforms.
‘‘This 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,’’ Mr Crean said.
Exporters will observe the ban while the industry develops new technology which could, in the future, address the heat risk challenges associated with shipments in June, July and August.
In addition to the ban, sheep exporters have agreed to initiate a program of transparency and on-board monitoring.
The program 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 $2.06billion to the Australian economy, exporting 16.6million sheep on 258 voyages.
While more than three-quarters of Middle East sheep voyages in the past seven years have recorded mortalities of less than one per cent, the majority of the 20 voyages when mortalities were above 1.5 per cent occurred in the June to August northern summer period.
‘‘The live sheep trade to the Middle East needs to be reset,’’ Mr Crean said.
Responding to the announcement, Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said it should have come earlier.
‘‘I have repeatedly asked exporters to lead,’’ he said.
‘‘It would have been better if industry had shown leadership across a broad range of animal welfare matters some years ago.
‘‘It’s important we respect our trading partners and make sure we work through practical solutions to ensure their food security.
‘‘We await the science regarding the heat stress model which we expect shortly.’’
■Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie has introduced her own private member’s bill into parliament. It mirrors the private member’s bill first introduced by Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley earlier this year.