Big shipments in December lifted Australia's live sheep exports by one per cent last year to 1.118 million.
Most of the sheep (1.074m head) were shipped out of Fremantle which saw a 24pc lift in exports in 2019 compared with the previous year.
Exports in December jumped 32pc month-on-month and 21pc year-on-year to reach 173,869.
Increased exports to Qatar which imported 60,000, up 71pc compared with November, helped drive the lift in December shipments.
Kuwait was the biggest importer of live sheep during 2019, lifting its purchases by 58pc to 385,120.
The two next biggest buyers were Qatar (334,69 head, up 12pc) and Jordan (188,781, up 63pc).
Turkey didn't import any sheep from Australia last year after buying 214,815 in 2018.
Meat and Livestock Australia said demand for freshly slaughtered sheep would remain in key markets across the Middle East but future sheep exports would hinge on the regulatory environment the trade operated under.
The live sheep export trade has been in general decline since 2008 when shipments hit 4.2m including almost 1m head to Kuwait and 873,000 to Saudi Arabia which stopped buying in 2013.
The trade has had a troubled history because of heavy losses on some voyages to the hot Middle East region and disputes over the health of sheep on arrival at some destinations.
Shipments were banned for four months last year from June 1 to September 22.
The federal Department of Agriculture halted the trade in response to available scientific evidence, animal welfare concerns and public feedback about the risk of losses caused by heat stress on voyages during the northern hemisphere summer.
All shipments must also now comply with new conditions including verification of the ship's pen air turnover, a heat stress management plan and a reduction in pen densities.
The industry has been under heavy scrutiny since April 2018 when whistleblower footage containing disturbing images of conditions on the live carrier, the Awassi Express, caused widespread concern.
Since then the industry in WA has got on the front foot to introduce changes and working hard to restore public confidence in the trade.
The trade is extremely important to WA sheep producers earning them about $100 million per year on average.
The story Live sheep trade hits calmer waters with shipments on the rise first appeared on Farm Online.