Media Release

Landmark Australian study shows true value of livestock export trade

8 July 2014

A new report outlines the value of the Australian livestock export trade and dispels some of the myths and misinformation that are propagated about the trade.

Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, said the ABARES Live Export Trade Assessment is now the definitive study of the Australian livestock exports trade.

“We now have a comprehensive analysis of the drivers of this trade. So I encourage everyone, including animal rights organisations that have questioned the future of this trade, to read the report.” Minister Joyce said.

“The Coalition Government believes the livestock trade is legitimate and we are committed to growing it because it provides protein to millions of people and underpins the viability of Australian producers.

“This report found Australia is the fifth-largest cattle exporter in the world and the second-largest sheep exporter in the world. We’re competing with a hundred other nations in this trade, and our producers should be proud we’re in demand because of our disease-free status and the high quality of our animals.

“The report examined the reasons countries continue to demand live imports instead of boxed meat and found that while it’s often to do with cultural and religious reasons, it is also because of lack of refrigeration, unsuitability of land and climate for local production, support for a local meat processing industry, and lower tariffs or higher subsidies on live imports compared with imported meat.

“This study makes it clear that if we pull back on live exports it will not translate to increased meat imports from Australia – we have many strong competitors for live exports from Africa and Europe, and if countries demand boxed meat there are many cheaper suppliers of meat for them to choose from.

“This study also confirms there are between 8,000 and 10,000 Australians employed in this industry and there are thousands of farms across Australia involved in this trade.

“An estimated 1500 farm businesses identified as beef cattle specialists in the northern live cattle export region alone, and of these around 180 derived more than half their receipts from live exports in the three years ending 2012–13,” Minister Joyce said.

“In the nine months since the election of this government, the total value of live exports has topped $1 billion.”

“That’s an important contribution to the national economy and Australia’s farming community.”

Australia typically exports about 500 000 to one million head of cattle for feeder or slaughter purposes each year. About two to three million head of sheep are also exported each year, as well as between 60 000 and 80 000 live goats.

“Currently, our primary markets for Australian livestock exports are South-East Asia, the Middle East and North Africa,” Minister Joyce said.

“Our top market for live cattle exports in 2013 was Indonesia, with a value of $297 million. For live sheep exports, the market in Kuwait was valued at $69 million in 2013, while the value of live goat exports to Malaysia was $6 million.

“As Minister, I’ve been able to announce that livestock exports to Bahrain and Egypt can recommence and also that trade can begin with Iran. The Australian Government is sending a clear signal to potential markets that we have high quality livestock that we are committed to exporting, and we are open for business.”

To read the full report, visit