AUSTRALIA has avoided potential disruption to its multi-million dollar sheep meat trade with Japan by negotiating a higher maximum residue limit for the common drench ingredient abamectin.
In April last year, Japan reviewed the existing maximum residue level (MRL) for abamectin, an insecticide and sheep drench chemical that is used widely in many agricultural industries in Australia, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources said in its Agricultural Trade Matters June report.
Japan proposed to lower the MRL for abamectin for a number of commodities, including for sheep products, where it proposed to lower the MRL to almost zero or 0.01 mg/kg.
Australia’s current MRLs for abamectin as set by the Australia Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority are 0.05mg/kg for edible sheep offal and sheep meat (in the fat), DAWR said.
Australia’s National Residue Survey team, which monitors residues of agricultural and veterinary chemicals in commodities, identified the proposed MRL as a potential concern for the Australian sheep industry. Australia uses this chemical, and has substantial trade in sheep meat with Japan.
According to the Australia Bureau of Statistics, from 2011 to 2017, Australia exported 87.5 million kilograms of sheep meat to Japan at a total value of AUD $708.6 million.
Japan ignored approved abamectin use in Australia
A DAWR spokesperson said the abamectin MRL proposed by Japan did not take into account Australian approved uses of this veterinary chemical on sheep.
“Abamectin is approved for use in Australia as an oral antiparasitic for the control of various internal parasites in goats and sheep as well as lungworm, itch mite and nasal bot in sheep.
“If abamectin is used according as approved in Australia, there is the potential for residues to occur,” the spokesperson said.
Many sheep worm drenches with an abamectin approved for used in Australia have an Export Slaughter Interval of 28 days and a lower MRL if required by Japan could have raised the need for a longer ESI, potentially limiting abamectin drench use by sheep meat producers.
“The Australian Government respectfully requested that Japan consider establishing maximum residue limits consistent with those established by the Australian Pesticides and Medicines Authority (APVMA) to avoid potential disruption of trade in goat and sheep meat and offals,” the DAWR spokesperson said.
The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources’ National Residue Survey team made a submission to the WTO to avoid losing our sheep meat trade with Japan, the department said. The submission requested Japan reconsider its proposed reduction of the MRL for abamectin, taking into account data provided by the APVMA.
In March 2018 Japanese authorities advised that, after considering the information provided and the end use of the commodity, they had agreed to set a higher MRL for abamectin which would allow Australia’s trade to continue uninterrupted while still achieving Japan’s requirements. The higher MRL for abamectin that Japan agreed to was 0.1 mg/kg.
The DAWR spokesperson said there are currently no Codex MRLs for abamectin in goat or sheep commodities.
“Australia, the EU and the USA have established MRLs to cover residues of abamectin in sheep commodities, and Australia and the US for residues in goat commodities.
“The Australian MRLs for abamectin in goat and sheep commodities are safe and have been established at levels that are similar to, or lower than, the Codex MRLs for cattle commodities,” the spokesperson said.
Codex has established MRLs for cattle tissues of 0.05 mg/kg for kidney, 0.1 mg/kg for liver and 0.1 mg/kg for fat arising from the use as a veterinary drug.
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