Live Export

ALEC sees live sheep export markets still low on DAFF’s list

Terry Sim June 24, 2024

Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council CEO Mark Harvey-Sutton

A DEPARTMENTAL recommendation in 2023 to give health protocols for new live sheep export market a lower priority was not implemented, but exporters still believe the approvals are “down the list”, Sheep Central has been told.

At the House Standing Committee on Agriculture inquiry’s into the Export Control Amendment (Ending Live Sheep Exports by Sea) Bill 2024 at Northam recently, WA Livestock Exporters Association chairman John Cunnington said four markets were trying to get access to Australia sheep.

These countries are Morocco, Iraq, Iran and Indonesia, with interest also reportedly being shown by Turkey.

Mr Cunmnington said health protocol approvals have previously been done “backwards and forwards within weeks”, but the process is now taking months and years.

“You can’t tell me that there is not a deliberate ‘go slow’ mandate being passed down.”

The Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry subsequently denied that it has been putting a lower priority on finalising health protocols for new live sheep markets, although a spokesperson said DAFF “has limited livestock technical market access resources and prioritises negotiation work to markets and commodities that are likely to result in meaningful trade.”

However, in January 2023, the DAFF trade reform division’s Andrew McDonald and Nicola Hinder advised Minister Watt in a briefing note that:

Given the government’s commitment to the phase out of the live sheep trade by sea, that you (Mr Watt) NOTE that the department intends to cease negotiation of new market access protocols for live sheep exports where the predominant mode of transport is expected to be by sea.

The department therefore intends to cease negotiating new market access protocols for live sheep exports where the predominant mode of export is expected to occur by sea. The department proposes to do this by not allocating resources to these market negotiation activities.

When questioned about the briefing note, DAFF acknowledged the advice made to the Minister for Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt, “in light of its then financial position.”

“The minister sought a further discussion, and as a result the recommendation was not implemented,” a DAFF spokesperson said.

“Live exports can and are occurring with all markets where there is a commercial opportunity, and regulatory requirements can be met.

“For markets where a government-to-government protocol does not exist, and there is commercial demand, individual consignment permits are available to exporters,” the spokesperson said.

“That is, a government-to-government protocol is not needed for trade to occur should there be an immediate commercial opportunity.

“The department continues to progress requests for government-to-government protocols for the live export trade within the department’s ongoing resourcing capacity,” the spokesperson said.

“Importantly, this necessitates two-way negotiations and can take time to reach agreement.

“For example, the department worked in partnership with the Australian sheep industry as they re-entered the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia market in January 2024.”

However, Australian Livestock Exporters Council chief executive officer Mark Harvey-Sutton said  even though the department might not being implementing the advice in the 2023 briefing notes, approvals for new live sheep markets are not being processed very quickly.

This could be due to a combination of diminished department resources and resolve, he said.

“I think they are resource-poor, there is a lot of market priorities.

“The area that deals with (live export approvals) deals with all markets,” he said.

“There is no doubt they (new live sheep export approvals) are down the list and you could infer with a government saying we are phasing out live sheep, the department has to work out what to prioritise.

“So even though they may not have deliberately made it a lower priority, it could still be down the list.”

Mr Harvey-Sutton disputed the department’s description of the ‘partnership’ with the sheep industry on re-entering the Saudi market.

“As our experience with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia demonstrates, it is often to industry to actually push very hard when markets are a priority.

“I would not describe the opening of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (market) as one that was initially with a partnership approach,” he said.


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  1. Tom Casey, June 25, 2024

    Powerlines turbines solar panels is all our land is good for according to city people. They have a very short memory. During COVID, our produce kept them all going. As for our ag minister, I think his hatred of our industry keeps coming to the fore. He doesn’t want the portfolio and hasn’t even got the support of his constituency, as he’s a senator who gets appointed by his party.

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