Impact on Western Australia’s sheep supply chain of the termination of live sheep exports
Western Australia (WA) supplies around three-quarters of Australia’s exports of live sheep. The number of sheep exported live from WA has ranged from 4.5 million to 2.4 million with the trend in numbers exported being downwards. The future of this export trade appears to be increasingly vulnerable and uncertain, primarily because of the influence of animal welfare lobbyists. This paper uses scenario analysis to assess the impact on WA’s sheep supply chain of the termination of the live sheep export trade. The supply chain comprises three subsectors: farm production, processing/wholesale and retailing/export. The impacts of the trade termination on each of these sub-sectors are reported. These impacts are strongly linked to how producers respond to termination of the trade. If producers choose to exit the industry or reduce their sheep production in response to the likely lower prices that would follow a reduction in the live export trade, then the abattoirs eventually will suffer through reduced throughput and their support industries will have reduced demand for their services. Meat processors will benefit initially through access to sheep that previously would have been exported live, but these processors may not necessarily benefit in the longer term if the sheep population declines. Further, markets that currently accept live sheep may not necessarily accept the equivalent volume of chilled and frozen sheep meat and may not pay equivalent prices to those currently paid for live sheep. There are cultural, religious and economic preferences for live sheep in some Middle East markets so a simple substitution of chilled and frozen sheep meat for live sheep is not possible in some major markets.
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