$107 million to support phase out of live sheep exports by sea

The export of live sheep by sea from Australia will end on 1 May 2028, with legislation enacting the phase out to be introduced in this term of Parliament.

A $107 million Federal transition support package for the Australian sheep industry will support the phase out of live sheep exports by sea.

While the live sheep export industry has been in decline for many years, down from $415m in 2002-03 to $77m in 2022-23, the demand for processed sheepmeat both here and overseas has been rapidly expanding.

This presents an opportunity for more processing to occur onshore in Western Australia, which will mean more local jobs.

Federal Minister for Agriculture, Murray Watt said the government had made an election commitment to the Australian public and today the government is delivering on that commitment.

“We are giving certainty to sheep producers and the supply chain by legislating the date, and putting $107 million on the table to enable an orderly and well-planned transition away from the trade,” Minister Watt said.

“This is a comprehensive package that will assist to strengthen supply chains, develop market opportunities and improve animal welfare. 

“With the Australian sheepmeat sector booming, our sheep industry has a bright future.

“This support will help it continue to grow, creating more local jobs through increased value adding.

“Transition support is focused on helping affected individuals, businesses and communities to plan for, respond and adjust to the phase out.

“Importantly, it will be available to help all parts of the sheep industry supply chain, from farmers, to truckies, to shearers and processors.

“We are putting support on the table now so that people can start planning and acting now.

“We want to ensure those affected by the phase are well-positioned, resilient and ready when the trade ends in 2028.” Minister Watt said the government was committed to the sheep industry in Australia.

“Our sheepmeat industry is one of the great success stories of our agricultural sector,” he said.

“Processing sheep here in Australia adds value locally, supports increased farm gate returns and creates local jobs. 

“We already provide some of the world’s best sheepmeat and wool products to Australian consumers.

“We all know Australians love their lamb, but now the rest of the world is catching on with demand for lamb and mutton products continuing to grow.

"Australia's lamb and mutton exports were worth $4.5 billion in 2022-23 whereas live sheep exports by sea were less than $77 million in 2022-23, less than 0.1 percent of Australia's estimated agricultural production in that year.

"While live sheep exports have shrunk by $338 million over the past 20 years, our sheepmeat exports have grown by over 300% over that same period, with exports to the North Africa and Middle East region more than tripling in value over this period.

“This package will provide more consumers, at home and overseas, the opportunity to sample Australia’s world class sheepmeat products.”

Minister Watt said the government was taking these measures to protect the welfare of Australian sheep. “The community expects Australia to have the world’s best animal welfare practices,” Minister Watt said.

“I understand that some in the community will want to see the trade stopped tomorrow, and others not at all.

“As a government we have taken the time to get this right.

“This approach strikes the right balance, based on extensive industry and community consultation - including a detailed report from the independent panel, which we are releasing today.”

The $107 million in transition support includes: 

  • $64.6 million to assist sheep producers and the supply chain, particularly in Western Australia, to capitalise on existing and emerging opportunities so that they are well positioned when the trade ends. Funding will assist businesses to plan and implement transition actions and to expand domestic sheep processing capacity. It will also support community wellbeing activities and rural financial counsellors. 
  • $27.0 million to enhance demand within Australia and internationally for sheep products to maintain and develop market opportunities. With a range of delivery partners, including Austrade, this will fund activities such as market analyses, consumer studies, product promotions and building business relationships. Agricultural counsellors and Austrade will also work to support diverse trade to and relationships in the Middle East and North Africa region.  
  • $2.6 million to continue to improve sheep welfare standards so that they are practical and meet community expectations and for Australia to enhance its engagement in the World Organisation for Animal Health.
  • $1.7 million to appoint a Transition Advocate to facilitate two-way communication between industry and government, provide information to industry about the transition plan and support, and provide advice to government on how the transition is progressing. 
  • $11.1 million for the implementation of the phase out, including a stocktake of transition progress in 2026-27 and to facilitate ongoing engagement with industry, communities, trading partners and other stakeholders.

Further details about the transition support programs will be released early in the second half of the year.

View the Australian Government response to the independent panel report here.

View the transition plan here

For more details head to www.agriculture.gov.au/live-sheep-phase-out