LIVECORP chief executive Cameron Hall expects the Australian sheep export market to continue growing, and believes it can remain unaffected by the global financial crises crippling other sectors.
Some 4.15 million sheep worth about $344 million were sold from June '08 to May '09, up at least 15 per cent in value on the 4 million sheep sold for $283 million in the previous '07/08 financial year.
Mr Hall, who is due to announce full-year results late next month, said the industry was able to escape a demand backlash because of the continual growth in the Middle East population and economy.
But he admitted supply was now at a critical level.
"It has been particularly difficult," Mr Hall said.
"The real requirement is for the wool industry, meat processors and live sheep exporting to work together to give clear market signals to producers."
The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports sheep and lamb numbers in 2007-08 fell to 76.9 million, its lowest level recorded since 1920.
"To see exporters offering forward contracts and reasonably long-term ones is a significant signal where the industry is at and the demand for sheep," Mr Hall said.
In 1999 the full-year results were around 5 million sheep exported at a value of $188 million.
"The average price of sheep has more than doubled (since then) ... it's gone from $37 a head to $83 at the end of May this year."
Nationwide 63pc of agricultural exports have been negatively affected by the global financial crises, significantly lower than the national average of 71pc, according to the DHL export barometer released last Friday.
The survey of 864 Australian exporters identified the Middle East as the key export destination, with 56pc of respondents confident of increasing sales to this region over the next 12 months.
China slipped from first to fourth position on the ranking, falling 9pc from last year.
Due to the global economic downturn, exporters reported a record slump in sales in the last three months; however exporters with less than five years experience faired much better with a 38pc rise in orders compared to 27pc for companies exporting for more than 20 years.
Austrade chief economist Tim Harcourt said: "Despite the global financial crisis and the bleak economic outlook in OECD, Australian exporters are persisting with their overseas campaigns.
"We've seen a spate of new exporters testing the market following a competitive exchange rate earlier in the year, providing a good head start into overseas markets.
"However experienced exporters who are locked into long-term contracts are more affected by price fluctuations and are less flexible to explore new opportunities in more stable markets."
Oceania senior vice president Gary Edstein said the results underscore the resilience and confidence of new Australian exporters.
"Riding on the back of their recent success, the outlook is also sunnier for new exporters with 64pc forecasting an increase in their profitability in the next 12 months compared to 34pc of seasoned exporters."
The mining industry has suffered the biggest hit because of the global financial crises, with 89pc of exporters likely to have had their sales negatively affected.
The export report comes as the Australian consumer confidence index soared 23pc in the last two months.
The jump in Australian shopping trends is the biggest rise in consumer confidence in the 34-year history of the Westpac Melbourne Institute measure.
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