AUSTRALIA’S live export trade of sheep is on hold.

Exporters must meet government-set quality assurance guidelines for key Middle East markets before the practice can resume.

Although the guidelines included in the Export Supply Chain Assurance System were announced in October, none of the exporters were able to meet the March 1 deadline.

And while the three major exporters are all confident of complying with the guidelines, none can say when. None of them would comment on the progress with their ESCAS commitments.

Victoria’s last shipment of 50,000 Merino wethers and crossbred wether lambs bound for Turkey was sent just before the deadline.

Two shipments that left Western Australia and South Australia last month also beat the deadline.

Last year 480,000 sheep were exported in March and April.

Under ESCAS, each exporter is responsible for animal welfare from the local assembly feedlots to the point of slaughter.

That means that every feedlot, mode of transport and processing plant involved in the exporter’s supply chain contract has to have an assurance of animal welfare standards, which are subject to a quarterly independent audit.