DESPITE the sharp rise in sheep export prices over the past eight months, demand for Australian sheep in the Middle East is holding strong.

And this demand is not expected to drop off according to Livecorp livestock services manager Peter Dundon.

Mr Dundon, who is based in Bahrain, said if Australian producers were debating whether they should be sticking with sheep or not, he would strongly suggest they do.

“While there is some resistance to the higher prices, importers are still keen to source Australian sheep simply because of the food security issue,” Mr Dundon said.

“While the fact that there are higher prices has seen some importers look to northern Africa to source sheep, no one can guarantee supply like Australia can.

“Bahrain demands 2500 sheep per day and Australia supplies 95 per cent of that market.

“If the trade to Bahrain stopped tomorrow, a whole lot of people would not have access to fresh meat.

“Somalia is probably our biggest competitor and are closest to Australian sheep in price, but Somalian sheep are about half the weight. They dress out at 11 kilograms as opposed to Australian sheep that have a 21-23kg carcase weight.

“Northern African countries also continually have issues with Foot and Mouth Disease and Rift Valley Fever and that disrupts supply.”

Mr Dundon admitted that there had been a marked change in the composition of the sheep that have been exported live to the Middle East in the past five years.

“We are now sending lighter sheep than we used to, but that is a reflection of the changing Australian sheep flock,” he said.

“Sheep are now being turned off at a younger age, so they are going to be lighter.

“Weights are also influenced by seasons. Seasonal conditions over the last couple of years have probably contributed to lighter weight sheep coming through, but at certain times of the year there are good heavy wethers sent over.

“I think if there is a readjustment to the Australian sheep flock and more people go back into sheep you will start to see heavier weights coming through again.”

Mr Dundon said there were more ewes being exported now compared to five years ago.

“This is concerning because, while some importers are happy to take them, we would rather see those ewes remaining in Australian paddocks and being used for breeding,” he said.

“The fact more ewes are now exported is an indication Australian farmers are going out of sheep and we want more sheep being produced not less.”


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