Highlight year for sheep industry

30 Dec, 2015 01:00 AM
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THE sheep industry had some highlight moments in 2015.

The total WA sheep turn-off was projected to reach 5.4 million in 2014/15, easing pressure on the flock.

Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) senior research officer Kimbal Curtis and fellow officer and Sheep Notes co-ordinator Kate Pritchett said the value of sheep meet exports continued to surge and average prices had increased.

Their findings were a highlight of this year's DAFWA Regional Sheep Updates, which painted a promising picture of the WA meat and wool industries.

The updates also highlighted the value of adopting Lifetime Ewe Management practices and understanding wool consumption trends to keep farm business profitable.

These were the year's positive messages for producers across WA.

WA processor V&V Walsh hit the first target of its export expansion plans to China, becoming an official investor and part owner of red meat importer the Grand Farm Group.

The company is waiting on the necessary paperwork and approval from the Chinese government for a licence to export WA sheepmeat and beef into China.

China was also a hot topic for the sheep meat industry this year.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed in July by Agriculture and Food Minister Ken Baston in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, to grow annual WA sheep meat exports to China by 500,000 head.

Mr Baston said the WA's sheep industry would be able to help meet growing demand from China thanks to the MoU.

The MoU marked an important undertaking by industry and government towards continued value chain development, which will increase industry confidence and support farmers to grow their business in WA, as China was the largest destination for WA sheep meat (lamb and mutton) in 2013-14 at $53 million.

The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) was another highlight for the industry, as it would return benefits to the farmgate.

Sheepmeat Council president Jeff Murray said there was a lot of value in the ChAFTA for sheep producers.

China imported 25 per cent of Australia's sheepmeat exports and nearly 90pc of its sheepskin exports.

Mr Murray said the government worked hard to deliver a beneficial outcome for the WA meat trade but also for the exports of co-products, including offal, tallow, meat and bone meat and pet food exports and skins.

The agreement will see tariffs of 12-25pc on sheepmeat products eliminated over eight years, offal tariffs of 12-25pc eliminated over 5-10 years and tariffs of 5-15pc on skins eliminated over 5-8 years.

While there was positive news for south east Asian markets, the live sheep trade into Iran was still up in the air.

Mr Baston met with the Iran ambassador to Australia this year, in an effort to get the trade moving.

While talks were positive, future trade is still uncertain.

Iran was one of Australia's largest sheep markets - taking 3m head - but the market closed for nearly 40 years ago.

At the time Iran had a population of 50m, but that has grown to somewhere near 80m and industry sources believe Iran has the potential to take 1m head of live sheep annually.

In the Murchison region, wild dogs remained a debilitating problem for pastoralists.

They hope to receive funding for the remaining 380 kilometres of the vermin cell fence from the Royalties for Regions' Mid West Investment Plan, through the Mid West Development Commission, to try control the dogs.

The fence is estimated to cost $4.5 million to build.

Mid West Development Commission reworked the vermin cell business case this year in conjunction with the Mount Magnet shire, and on behalf of the Murchison Regional Vermin Cell Council, and has been negotiating with difference government departments.

Southern Rangelands producers welcomed $1.13m in federal funding allocated to the WA government to boost efforts to combat the wild dogs.

The funding was designed to assist landholders conduct control activities, including fencing.

Pastoralist Ash Dowden, Challa station, who has been trying to protect the Southern Rangelands against wild dogs said it was fantastic news that the federal government had decided to allocate the funds.

Mr Dowden said the funding has been earmarked for dog control and fencing fits that criteria.

Work is still being done to access funds for the fence, and wild dog control on station is being done daily by pastoralists in the affected areas.

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