Australia will ban the export of live sheep by sea from May 1, 2028, but the trade can continue until the end date without any additional restrictions such as caps or quotas, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator the Hon Murray Watt said.

The Minister announced the decision on 11 May 2024 together with the release of the government response to the report of the Independent Panel and a transition support package.

The prohibition will not apply to other livestock export industries, such as live cattle exports, or live sheep exports by air.

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

“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.”

“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.

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.

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 has been rapidly expanding.

“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,” the minister added.