CLARITY was needed for the resumption of the Western Australia’s live sheep export trade after the northern summer, WA’s Minister for Regional Development Agriculture and Food Alannah MacTiernan said last night.
Live sheep exports ceased from Western Australia after the federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources suspended the licence of Emanuel Exports in June and that of its subsidiary EMS Rural Exports in July.
Other WA-based live sheep exporters then either withdrew from the live sheep trade to the Middle East for the northern summer months or re-directed vessels to other work, questioning the viability of the trade under Australia’s new stocking density rules and a halving of the current reportable mortality level to 1pc.
The situation has been further complicated by Animals Australia threatening the department with legal action if it approved a permit for a Middle East sheep shipment between July and September, claiming it is not possible for the DAWR secretary to reach the required level of satisfaction to grant a permit for such a shipment.
The WA exporters have also been attempting to meet with federal Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud to discuss the new rules, the trade’s future and the Animals Australia legal position.
No change in Emanuel situation for weeks
At the Lambex 2018 welcome function at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre last night, Mrs MacTiernan said she understood about half of the original 60,000 sheep held in a feedlot south of Perth by Emanuel Exports have been sold to WA processors.
The minister said although the company still expressed a hope to export the remaining sheep to the Middle East, she doubted there would be any change in the situation for weeks.
“My understanding is that Emanuel has responded to the show cause notice and that it will be some time before the responses that have been given by Emanuel for the show cause notice will be completed.
“So I can’t see anything happening in that space for the next couple of weeks.”
The “show cause’ notice was issued to Emanuel Exports by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources when its licence was suspended. The notice required Emanuel to justify why it should hold an export licence.
Mrs MacTiernan said despite the chaos around the live export trade, the sheep meat markets are in “a good space” in terms of prices. She expected Livestock Shipping Service to come back into the trade after the northern summer.
“But this is the question, when is ‘after the northern summer’ going to be?
“As we understand it, the departmental guidelines for the one third reduction in stocking density applies all the way through to October, which means from LSS’s point of view, which according to their public statements, they can’t profitably do this during that period,” she said.
Ms MacTiernan said what needed to be sorted out was when could a new system be put in place so other exporters like LSS and Wellard can resume live sheep shipments.
“Our understanding is that they want to resume (live exports), it’s a question of whether or not they are going to be able to and when they are going to be able to.
A spokesman for Emanuel Exports said the company has been selling the sheep held in the WA feedlot to processors, but exact numbers were unavailable. The company’s plan if the suspension is lifted is to take whatever sheep remain and potentially purchase more sheep and start shipments, he said. However, the company did not have a good indication of whether the suspension would be lifted or when that might happen.