Government to phase out live exports by sea

 Government to phase out live exports by sea

The Government has announced that the export of livestock by sea will cease following a transition period of up to two years, said Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

“At the heart of our decision is upholding New Zealand’s reputation for high standards of animal welfare. We must stay ahead of the curve in a world where animal welfare is under increasing scrutiny,” Damien O’Connor said.

“This decision will affect some farmers, exporters, and importers and a transition period will enable the sector to adapt.”

Live exports by sea represent approximately 0.2 percent of New Zealand’s primary sector exports revenue since 2015.

“I acknowledge the economic benefit some farmers get from the trade, but I also note that support of it is not universal within the sector.”

Damien O’Connor said the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) review of live exports, which started in 2019, identified mixed perceptions of the activity.

“There is split opinion about its long-term value and how it fits with the story we want to tell internationally to consumers. In its review submission, the independent National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC), which advises ministers on animal welfare issues, advised that the practice should stop.”

Damien O’Connor said improvements had been made to the practice over recent years, but despite everyone’s best efforts, the voyage times to our northern hemisphere markets will always pose animal welfare challenges.

Damien O’Connor said officials had spoken to key trading partners about the decision.

“I recognise the importance of our trade relationships with our international partners and we’re committed to working with them as we transition away from the shipment of livestock. New Zealand has an opportunity to boost trade through our cutting-edge scientific work into dairy cow genetics and germplasm use.”

“During the transition period, exporters will meet the extra requirements that we introduced following the independent Heron report, which was carried out after the tragic loss of the Gulf Livestock 1 in September 2020. I’ve asked MPI to provide further advice on improvements to animal welfare during the phase out.

“I want to thank all of those who took part in the wider review. The Government is committed to high animal welfare standards,” Damien O’Connor said.

There have been no livestock exports for slaughter since 2008.


Media contact: Sean O’Brien 022-367-7326


What date will the trade stop?

The trade will stop in up to two years’ time. The transition period of up to two years will allow affected businesses the time to wind down the trade and adjust their operations. It also provides our trading partners and importers with an appropriate amount of time to adopt alternative options.

This is a complex process to unwind due to factors such as existing contracts, business planning, and breeding cycles, so the final length of the transition period will be determined pending advice from the Ministry for Primary Industries. However, the maximum it will run is two years.

How much is the trade worth?

The value of New Zealand’s livestock exports have fluctuated over time, averaging around $60m per year between 2015 and 2019.

2015 – $49 million
2016 – $82 million
2017 – $63 million
2018 – $29 million
2019 – $77 million

The value of livestock exports increased dramatically after the announcement of the 2019 review to $261 million for the year ending December 2020.

For context, this still only equals 0.2% of New Zealand’s primary sector exports since 2015.

How many cows are exported each year?

Cattle by sea: – volume for the year ending December


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: