By Boyd Champness

AUSTRALIA moved a step closer to full resumption of its live sheep trade to Saudi Arabia earlier this month when its second trial shipment was given the scabby mouth all-clear by Saudi authorities.

The shipment of 68,000 sheep was offloaded in the Saudi port of Jeddah mid-month with no visible incidence of scabby mouth, the harmless but unsightly disease that led to the trades demise in the early 1990s.

According to the Stock and Land, a third trial shipment is planned within the next six weeks to further test the health protocols and the vaccination introduced to prevent the outbreak of scabby mouth in live sheep exports.

Federal Trade Minister Mr Mark Vaile told the newspaper that all the signs pointed to a full resumption of trade.

“From the Saudi side there are no impediments to this trade continuing, so it has been a successful restart to the trade,” he said.

“All the indications we were given were extremely positive, and they are very happy with the trade at an official level.”

The Saudi trade was stopped in the early 1990s after the Middle Eastern nation complained of unacceptable rates of scabby mouth in sheep shipped from Australia.

Mr Vaile said he was confident that Australia would soon be exporting up to three million sheep a year into Saudi Arabia.

At its peak in 1989, the Saudi live sheep trade consumed 3.5 million sheep, worth A$130 million (50m).