Live sheep exports
The majority of sheep exported from Australia originate in WA and the proportion of WA sheep has been increasing in recent years. In 2009, WA accounted for 72% of live sheep exports, however this increased to 97% in 2019. Despite the increase in the proportion of WA sheep making up Australia’s live exports, the number of sheep exported live has been on a declining trend over the last decade, as evident in Figure 9. Sheep exported live declined from 2.6m in 2009 to 1m in 2019, a decline of 59%.
The sharp decline between 2017, and 2018 and 2019 was largely due to the mid-year trade suspension and reduced stocking rates on ships imposed following the Awassi Express incident of 2017. To date in 2020 (Jan – April), 416 000 sheep have been exported live, down 10% on this time last year.
While not quite as consistent a decline as seen in the quantity of sheep exported live, there has been a likewise decrease in the value of live sheep exports, both nationally and from WA over the last decade (Figure 10). In 2019, WA live sheep exports were worth $136.2m, down from $239.3m in 2009, a decline of 43%. The drop in value has been less than that in quantity due to the buffering effect of increasing prices.
As seen in Figure 11 and Figure 12, the largest market by both quantity and value for live sheep exports was Kuwait. Other than in 2018, Kuwait has been the largest market for over a decade. In 2019, WA exported 365 000 sheep worth $50.7m to Kuwait. This accounted for 35% of the quantity and 37% of the value of sheep exports. Kuwait was followed by Qatar, and Jordan was the third largest market. These three markets together accounted for 78% of WA live sheep in quantity terms and 76% of the value.
A decade ago, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain were also large markets for live sheep from WA however, since then, both have exited the market. Oman was also much larger than it is today. It is clear that the Middle East maintains market dominance.