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Live sheep exports face almost four month halt

Exports of live sheep to the Middle East will be prohibited for almost four months of the year during the northern hemisphere summer, the Federal Government has just announced.

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment is introducing the new requirements for live sheep exports to, or through, the Middle East following the finalisation of the regulation impact statement (RIS).

The changes focus on conditions to manage the risk of heat stress during the Northern Hemisphere summer, which runs from May 1 to October 31.

Under the changes, Australian live sheep exports will not take place to, or through, the Middle East to any port from 1 June to 14 September.

There are additional prohibited periods for Qatar (from May 22 to September 22) and for Oman (from May 8 to September 14).

Additional conditions will also apply to voyages departing between May 1 and October 31, to manage the risk of heat stress in sheep.

All voyages during the Northern Hemisphere summer must now be equipped with automated environmental data loggers, with the temperature and humidity recorded and reported to the department.

Exporters will also be required to ensure sheep depart with the shortest wool length possible—not exceeding 25mm.

Voyages arriving in the Persian Gulf or Red Sea after June 1 or leaving Australia between September 15 and 30 must have no more than two ports of discharge.

These changes have been made by the independent regulator under the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Act 1997.

The RIS analysed the impacts and benefits of three policy options with the objective of reducing heat stress in sheep while supporting a sustainable live export trade. This process involved extensive consultation.

The announcement will provide some certainty to customers.

Australian Livestock Exporters Council had previously endorsed the second shipping option (one of three) to have a prohibition from June 1 to September 14 to all Middle Eastern ports.

It includes additional prohibition periods for Qatar from May 15 to September 22 and Oman from May 1 to September 14. However, in ALEC’s submission to department principal regulatory officer Melissa McEwen, it said while the proposal was supported in principle, amendments were necessary.

Among other options considered by the department was stopping shipments to the Middle East from May to October, inclusive, using the existing heat-stress risk assessment model.

The other option was to manage risk under a model based on heat-stress thresholds, with the option prohibiting shipments from May until November.

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