Questions & Answers

Why does the Government want to ban the export of livestock 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."

The livestock export industry disputes this and is continuing to work on improvements to become World’s best practise in the management and welfare of the livestock involved.

The industry also claims that the reputation of New Zealand as a supplier of livestock to help importing countries with their food security is very important, especially with the associated benefits in two way trade with these countries. They see potential loss of export revenue if importing countries react unfavourably to the government’s decision.

How will the Government ban exports?

The government has introduced a Bill to amend the Animal Welfare Act 1999 to ban the export of livestock (cattle, deer, sheep, and goats) by sea.

On 14 April 2021, Cabinet announced its decision to ban the export of livestock by sea, with a transition period of up to 24 months. Cabinet then directed the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to report back with advice on implementing this decision with either a conditional or total ban made through regulations under the Act, or through changes made to primary legislation. Cabinet also invited the Minister of Agriculture to report back on the length of the transition period.

MPI advised that amending the primary legislation was its preferred approach to implement the ban.

The amendment ensures that the ability to apply for animal welfare export certificates is not available for exports prohibited because of new section 41:

41 Animal welfare export certificate must not be issued for certain animals(1) A person must not apply for, and the Director-General must not issue, an animal welfare export certificate for the export of cattle, deer, goats, or sheep by ship.

A new section 48(1A) is added to prohibit the Director-General from making exemptions for exports prohibited because of the new section 41.

(1A) However, the Director-General must not exempt the export of cattle, deer, goats, or sheep by ship if the animals would leave New Zealand on or after 30 April 2023.

How many livestock are exported each year?

113,000 cattle were exported to China in 2020. This returned $255.89 million.

Cattle have been exported to a number of countries, but recently the main demand has come from China. Other countries continue to request cattle from New Zealand, but official market access has not been negotiated by MPI.

Why do countries want to import our livestock?

The level of urbanisation around the world is affecting food security, and we are in a position where we can and should help.

Markets import livestock to create self-sufficient herds that can supply milk and meat products to their people. Creating herds helps overcome food shortage problems but the reality for many countries is that they do not have the space or the water security to sustain enough production to feed their population. These countries are likely to continue to need other trade products from our primary industries.

What could happen if New Zealand fails to help importing countries by supplying livestock?

The industry claims that the reputation of New Zealand as a supplier of livestock to help importing countries with their food security is very important, especially with the associated benefits in two way trade with these countries. They see potential loss of export revenue if importing countries react unfavourably to the government’s decision.

New Zealand has a highly respected international reputation for supplying high quality, safe food to feed up to 50 million people in addition to its own population of 5 million.

New Zealand’s reputation will suffer in those markets where it declines to send animals to help urbanizing nations to provide themselves with food that New Zealand can not physically deliver, such as fresh milk.

New Zealand may be failing the food security of our largest trading partner with whom we have favoured trading arrangements through our free trade agreement.

The 100,000 heifers being exported each year are likely to become bobby calves and killed within a few days of birth.

Loss of market will see New Zealand cattle being replaced by cattle from Australia, Chile, Uruguay and some European countries. The welfare of those cattle during shipment may not be as good as that required from New Zealand.

What standards are applied to livestock exports by sea?

The official assurance programme (OAP) for exporting live animals helps ensure exporters meet the import requirements of their destination country. These are known as Overseas Market Access Requirements (OMARs).

The OAP is supported by the Animal Products Act 1999 and legal notices.

The OAP is a framework of standards, policies, and legislation that gives importing governments confidence that any animal material, including live animals from New Zealand meet the import requirements for those markets. Most importing governments need official assurances for any live animals being exported from New Zealand.

Before it can issue an official assurance, MPI needs to verify any claims made on the assurance. This maintains New Zealand's integrity as a trading partner and MPI's reputation as a competent authority.

For exporting live animals MPI does this through:

  • Requiring exporters to apply for and be issued with an Animal Welfare Export Certificate
  • Codes of practice or operational codes, which provide guidance on recommended standards to help the exporters of live animals meet their requirements

Why should you make a submission to the Primary Production Select Committee?

If you are directly affected by livestock exports, you should make a submission.

Guidelines to the process are provided on the LENZ website.

What is the economic benefit to New Zealand?

In 2020 New Zealand exported $255.89 million of live cattle to the rest of the world.

Live exports have made up roughly 0.2 per cent of all agriculture revenue since 2015.

In the past 10 years, around 5,000 farmers across New Zealand have supplied breeding cattle for export, with an average of over 40 animals per farm.

Additional to the livestock value that farmers receive directly, a shipment of around 3,000 animals can return roughly $1.5 million to New Zealand based service providers. Including domestic livestock transporters, veterinarians, feed supply companies, quarantine facilities and regional accommodation providers. It’s the rural areas and rural service centres that see most of the economic benefits from the trade as this additional income circulates creating an economic multiplier effect.

Loss of income from dairy farmers who raise and sell their surplus heifer calves to exporters.

Many young farmers have used the additional income to help purchase their first farm or to get greater equity in the dairy farming system.

Livestock for export usually attracts a premium, which can be 50-85% of an animal’s value above the domestic market. Selling livestock for export is a useful income generator for rural communities.


This product has been added to your cart