Sheep industry meeting COVID-19 test

Sheep Producers Australia say industry is still functioning well in COVID-19

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There is good news to be mixed in with the apparent gloom.

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Sheep Producers Australia acting CEO Stephen Crisp says some decisions are currently harder than usual for producers due to COVID-19 changes but the good news is the industry is still functioning well. Photo: Supplied

Sheep Producers Australia acting CEO Stephen Crisp says some decisions are currently harder than usual for producers due to COVID-19 changes but the good news is the industry is still functioning well. Photo: Supplied

Sheep producers along with the agriculture sector as a whole, are rightly being praised for getting on with supplying food and fibre in a seemingly unaffected manner.

The outward look belies the pressure being faced by producers, who are often involved in mixed enterprises, and are facing difficult decisions.

Lamb prices are good, but there are massive market disruptions (mainly export related in the food service sector), including extreme pressure on some of our competitors in the meat sector.

There is, however, a lot of good news to be mixed in with the apparent gloom.

The store lambs and the re-stocker market seem to be keeping the rest of the markets more than buoyant.

The processing sector on the whole, has done an amazing job to keep operating through the COVID restrictions, not only in managing the workforce issues, but also in re-directing volume products to the highest value markets.

Similarly saleyards have continued to operate, albeit with some restrictions on producers attending.

When restrictions were being considered, Sheep Producers Australia (SPA) immediately advocated for any genuine buyers to be able to attend, including re-stockers.

Competition at sales seems to have been well maintained, and naturally we have seen an increase in online sales. Industry and retail marketing efforts are being adjusted to fit in with the higher volume of cuts that would normally go to the food service sector.

This can be an opportunity for the sector to invest in new uses for cuts, or increase the volume of ready-made meals.

The wool sector has assisted in difficult times, putting in place shearing protocols (supported by Sheep Producers Australia), which is vital for the entire sheep industry.

Some decisions are currently harder than usual - around whether to shear the lambs now or hold-off, to keep longer and add more weight or sell early.

The good news is that the industry is still functioning well, but will need to remain vigilant in processing and shearing protocols, on the eve of some of societies COVID-19 restrictions being lifted.

Many sheep regions are starting to emerge from drought, and whilst uncertainties remain, sheep are still offering the returns that will encourage a flock-rebuild.

Challenges remain, not least of which is a looming recession, leading to a slow rebuild in food service, but it is good to be in a sector that has been positive in the face of a crisis.

Overall, the global demand for sheep meat is still strong and producers are well positioned to reliably supply both domestic and export markets with premium quality products.

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