Export Lamb

Sheep meat trade will adapt to Qatar import subsidy decision

Sheep Central, December 2, 2020

Sheep Producers Australia CEO Stephen Crisp

AUSTRALIA’S sheep meat processing and export sector would adapt to any interruptions to the trade into the Persian Gulf country Qatar, according to Sheep Producers Australia chief executive officer Stephen Crisp.

Media reports today said the $300 million-a-year lamb carcase and live sheep trade to Qatar is at risk from a winding down of the country’s state-supported import subsidy scheme on December 31.

The Australian Financial Review reported that the Qatar government-controlled Widam Food Company has notified markets that Qatar would cease subsidising Australian fresh and chilled meat from the end of the year.

Mr Crisp said he has not seen the Widam Food Company advice, “but from all reports it is correct.”

He said any change or reduction in Australia’s terms of trade is a concern.

“But you’ve got to look at the larger picture of Qatar.

“They are a very special case in our trade relationships and also their own food security arrangements,” he said.

“They take food security very seriously and they’ve had a subsidised program of product going in there, which has included our own lamb product.

“But at the same time they have been upgrading their abattoirs and their feedlots so they can get their live export trade back and running as they feel it should,” he said.

“So, yes this subsidy has changed early, but I don’t think we can read too much into it.

“They look at their own mix of products and how they import their protein and also their petro dollars, which they rely on, which has obviously been massively reduced since COVID-19,” Mr Crisp said.

Australia would still have a very important role in Qatar’s mix of imported food products, he said.

“That doesn’t help (Australian) processors who were planning on sending carcases there, and I don’t want to talk on behalf of processors.

“But their second best option is breaking up those carcases and sending it to the 90 different countries that we send sheep meat too.

“Their second best option wouldn’t be a lot worse than sending it to Qatar.”

He was confident Australian air-freight lamb exporters would be able to break up the previously Qatar-bound carcases to find value in other markets.

“That carcase trade will definitely suffer, but the trade will adapt.

“It’s not great news, but it is not a huge issue either.”

Minister expects continued demand for quality lamb in Qatar

Federal Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said any suggestion that exports of Australian lamb to Qatar have been banned is incorrect.

“Qatar is apparently reviewing the operation of its state supported import scheme, including possibly moving to a less state controlled and more market orientated model.

“Australia has been contracted to supply the state supported scheme since 2015,” he said.

“We expect that Australia will experience competition for future contracts under a new model, but that there will be continued demand for premium quality lamb in Qatar.”

Meat & Livestock Australia said air-freight accounted for 99.9 percent of chilled Australian lamb to Qatar in 2019, 68.3pc into the UAE, 98pc into Kuwait, 72.4pc into Jordan and 100pc of product into Iran. These markets were also supplemented by sea-freight frozen lamb and mutton. Combined, the chilled air-freight lamb trade to the Middle East accounted for 44,000 tonnes of product, worth US$275 million in 2019, or 28.9pc of combined sea and air-freight chilled lamb exports and 9.7pc of overall sheep meat exports, MLA said. The UAE and Qatar are Australia’s two biggest air-freight sheep meat markets and rely on their national carriers for the majority of freight.

Trade sources suggsted that the main factors in the Qatar subsidy decision include Australia’s restrictions on live sheep exports and budgetary restraints caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.


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  1. Donald Cameron, December 2, 2020

    One wonders if this is connected to PM Morrison’s outrageous demand for a weapons-grade inquiry into China’s management of the virus and the subsequent destruction of our relationship, or the appalling massacres committed by our supposedly elite soldiers.
    It’s our ADF that needs a clean out, from the top down. Why else would Qatar punish Australia?

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