The global live export trade is now valued at over $18bn per annum, according to a research report, Enhancing the Competitiveness of the Australian Livestock Export Industry, undertaken by the Australian Farm Institute for the Livestock Export Program, a collaborative initiative of LiveCorp and Meat & Livestock Australia.
The trade has grown, in part, due to the removal of restrictions on international agricultural trade. This has facilitated the development of integrated multi-national supply chains. In the past, agricultural exports typically went from the producer nation to the consuming nation. It is now increasingly common for trade to occur within vertically-aligned supply chains in which agricultural products from one nation are exported to undergo a second stage of production or initial processing in a second, then exported to undergo further transformation in a third nation before being exported as a consumer good to the nation of final consumption.
These developments are occurring across the entire spectrum of agriculture, from grains through to livestock and horticulture as, in the absence of trade barriers, national comparative advantages (be they cheap land, cheap labor or low-cost energy) become more important in determining which nation is more efficient at carrying out specific activities within a supply chain. In the absence of artificial barriers to agricultural trade, nations tend to become more specialized in those areas of agricultural production or processing in which they hold national comparative advantages.
In live export, the greatest increases in export value have been trade in cattle and pigs, although there has also been growth observed in the case of chicken and sheep. In the case of pigs and chickens, much of the trade growth has occurred between closely located nations (for example between Canada and the U.S.) whereas in the case of cattle, sheep and goats the trade has occurred between nations separated by much greater distances.
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