Blow for WA sheep farmers as biggest buyer heads to Africa

The live sheep export industry has been dealt a further blow with Australia’s biggest customer, Kuwait Livestock Transport and Trading, moving to source a long-term supply of sheep from South Africa.

The company, also called Al Mawashi, issued an announcement to the Kuwait Stock Exchange saying its board had approved the establishment of a new live export subsidiary in South Africa, similar to its Australian subsidiary Rural Export Trading WA.

RETWA owns a large pre-export quarantine property near Peel, and has offices in West Perth. Establishing operations in South Africa would spell the end to Australia’s 40-year exclusivity arrangement of supplying sheep to KLTT, which was buying up to two-thirds of the 1.8 million Australian sheep exported each year.

RETWA has applied to the Federal Government for a livestock export licence after its long-time partner Emanuel Exports and Emanuels’ subsidiary EMS Rural had their licences cancelled by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, following an investigation but without further explanation.

Emanuel was put under the microscope after sheep were filmed dying in horrific heat conditions aboard its voyage to the Middle East last year. Emanuel is appealing the cancellation of its licence and has asked the matter to be expedited.

The Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council, of which RETWA is a member, confirmed it was aware of Al Mawashi’s decision to establish operations in South Africa.

“Al Mawashi’s announcement to the Kuwait Stock Exchange confirms what the company has foreshadowed for many months; namely that it will continue to seek out reliable sources of live sheep in the future,” an ALEC spokesperson said.

“We respect Al Mawashi’s decision, but from an Australian perspective we want to ensure that our producers continue to have access to crucial markets in the Middle East by demonstrating we are a reliable, ethical and competitive supplier of healthy, high-quality sheep.”

KLTT would not comment, but in May chief executive Osama Boodai warned the firm was looking for alternative sources because of food security needs and doubts about Australian sheep exports.

“We need a reliable, 12-month-a-year supply, and if we can’t get it from Australia, we’ll be forced to look elsewhere — not just for the (Northern Hemisphere) summer, but for the whole year,” Mr Boodai said in May.

“We need stable markets, to keep our ships running and our feedlots and abattoirs operational.”

While South Africa’s estimated national sheep flock is almost 30 million head — double the number of sheep in WA — the prevalence of disease in African sheep has previously meant South Africa has not been a major exporter of livestock.

Separately, the first shipment of live sheep in more than three months is expected to depart WA later this week.

Livestock Shipping Services has arranged a small shipment of about 20,000 sheep, to accompany cattle to the Gulf, aboard the Maysora ship. The West