Australia is to ban live sheep exports by sea from 1 May 2028, its federal government has announced.

This will only apply to sheep exports by sea, not other livestock exports, such as cattle, or sheep exports by air.

The country’s minister for agriculture Murray Watt has offered a $107m support package over five years.

A statement from the government said this package is for sheep farmers and the supply chain to “plan for and adjust to the phase out”.

“Early action is being encouraged by the provision of funding now. We want to ensure those affected by the phase-out are well positioned, resilient and ready when the trade ends in 2028,” it added.

The decision, which will be written into law during the term of the current Australian parliament, comes following a report from an independent panel.

The National Farmers’ Federation chief executive officer (CEO) Tony Maher said the move was a disaster for farmers and said they would continue to oppose the ban.

Decline

Live sheep exports by sea in Australia have declined in recent years.

Previously, Anthony Albanese’s Labour government banned sheep exports on ships during the Middle Eastern summer.

In 2017, over 2,000 sheep died from heat stress on a ship that was bound for the Middle East.

Beef and sheepmeat exports

The news comes as Australian exports of both beef and sheepmeat continue to grow. Australia is the world’s largest exporter of sheepmeat.

Export volumes of sheepmeat for the first four months of 2024 were 195,638t, a 26% increase on the corresponding period in 2023.

Separately, in recent weeks, sheep farmers in Western Australia have faced serious problems due to a fodder crisis and a lack of a market to sell their sheep.

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The number of sheep in Australia has increased dramatically in the past three years, when the sheep population was at a 100-year low.