The value of Australia's livestock export industry is tipped to jump more than $300 million to $1 billion over the next 12 months as markets open up and the Federal Government prepares to review regulations introduced to improve animal welfare standards.
In a move welcomed by industry, the Government will review the Export Supply Chain Assurance System introduced by Labor after it imposed a temporary ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia in 2012.
Australian Live Exporters' Council chief executive Alison Penfold said animal welfare was "a make or break" issue for an industry which had worked hard to set high standards.
Ms Penfold said that while it was small alongside the meat processing sector, the live export trade was significant in supporting farm gate prices for sheep and cattle producers.
"It is in Australia's best interests to have a strong live trade and a strong processing sector to create competitive price tension at the farm gate and allow us access to the whole spectrum of markets," she said.
Animals Australia and the RSPCA questioned the economic significance of the live trade yesterday after the release of an Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resource Economics and Sciences report showing 94 per cent of sheep and 93 per cent of beef cattle produced last year were slaughtered in Australia for domestic consumption or export.
"It is not a significant industry for Australia, most farmers are not involved, those that are don't necessarily rely on it and there are viable alternatives," AA spokeswoman Lisa Chalk said.
The combined value of cattle, sheep and goat exports was $685.5 million in 2013 but ABARES predicts this will grow to $1 billion in 2014-15. Its forecast is based on re-opening markets in the Middle East, strong demand from South-East Asia, the emergence of Russia as a cattle buyer and the prospect of China allowing feeder and slaughter cattle imports.
The ABARES report again highlighted that WA sheep producers are more reliant on live export than those in other States.
It was estimated that WA farms comprised 86 per cent of about 1890 properties which sold sheep for live export last year.