THE prospect of the live sheep trade to Iran finally getting off the ground was given a boost this week with Agriculture and Food Minister Ken Baston meeting with the Iran ambassador to Australia on Tuesday morning.
Getting the trade moving was a key discussion point in the meeting, with Mr Baston saying the ambassador gave positive signals that they were keen to get trade going “as quickly as possible”.
Iran was once one of Australia’s largest sheep markets – taking three million head – but the market was closed nearly 40 years ago.
At the time Iran had a population of 50 million, but that has since grown to somewhere near 80m and industry sources believe it has the potential to take 1m head of live sheep annually.
Mr Baston said Iran used to be a big market for WA and has been closed for some time.
“If we can get it going again, it would be a very important market for us,” he said.
“The ambassador invited me to visit and I am looking at travelling to the Middle East in November, so if that trip takes place, I will try and facilitate going to Iran then.
“I would like to get there and see what is holding it up and the ambassador expressed a keen interest to get the trade moving as quickly as possible.
“I think the more markets we find the more exciting it is for WA agriculture.”
Mr Baston said with WA’s sheep flock sitting at about 14.2m head, there was going to be a need to increase production to meet new markets.
“In 1992 the flock sat at 32m, so we have a long way to go to get back to those levels,” he said.
“But it is markets like Iran that make you realise when they come along, that for us to be able to supply them, we have to have the stock.”