The Australian government has announced the end of live sheep exports by sea, effective May 1, 2028.

A federal transition support package of AUD$107 million will facilitate the phase-out. Legislation for the phase-out will be introduced during this term of the Australian Parliament.

Minister for agriculture, fisheries and forestry, Murray Watt, highlighted the decline of the live sheep export industry over the years, with exports dropping from AUD$415 million in 2002-03 to $77 million in 2022-2023.

However, there's a growing demand for processed sheepmeat domestically and internationally, creating opportunities for onshore processing in Western Australia and local job growth.

The transition support package aims to assist affected individuals, businesses, and communities to plan for and adjust to the phase-out. Minister Watt said: “Importantly, it will be available to help all parts of the sheep industry supply chain, from farmers, to truckies, to shearers and processors.

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“We want to ensure those affected by the phase are well-positioned, resilient and ready when the trade ends in 2028,”

Reactions to the announcement varied. The National Farmers’ Federation expressed shock, while the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) WA welcomed the decision as a historic moment for animal welfare in Australia.

Minister Watt highlighted the difference between live sheep exports and sheepmeat exports, underlining the significant growth of the latter. He acknowledged differing views regarding the timing of the trade ending and asserted that the government took the necessary time to present appropriate measures.