Live Export

Live sheep inquiry hears health protocol ‘go slow’ concern

Terry Sim June 17, 2024

The House Standing Committee on Agriculture at the Muresk Institute at Northam last week.

CONCERNS of a “go slow” on Federal Government health protocol approvals for new live sheep export markets were expressed at an inquiry into proposed trade phaseout legislation in Western Australia last week.

At the House Standing Committee on Agriculture inquiry’s into the Export Control Amendment (Ending Live Sheep Exports by Sea) Bill 2024 at Northam, there was long discussion about the trend in live sheep export numbers.

However, WAFarmers vice-president Steve Maguire said over the last 4-5 years the Federal Government “has been throttling the trade with red tape.”

“It’s not just the Red Sea they’ve got to negotiate, they’ve got to negotiate a sea of red tape, regulation has throttled the industry down.”

“The government is basically standing with its foot on the throat of the industry saying ‘I can’t breathe let’s euthanise’,” he said.

“Get your foot off our throat and we’ll get going and the numbers will increase.”

WA Livestock Exporters Association chairman John Cunnington said there were currently four markets currently trying to get access to Australia sheep. He was referring to Morocco, Iraq, Iran and Indonesia and their negotiations with the Federal Government on health protocols.

“A fifth is about to come (Turkey),” he said.

“Some of those have been in there for a couple of years.”

The health protocol approvals have previously been done “backwards and forwards within weeks”, but is now taking months and years, he said.

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

“You talk about trade declining, here’s trade opportunity to increase.

“Yes, we’ve just opened up Saudi which takes over 8 million head a year, which we now have market access to, but we are limited by the ESCAS (Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System) requirements.

“I’m not saying that is a bad thing, but that takes time to develop.”

“Just because something has fallen off for a period, doesn’t mean it can’t increase in the future.

“That is not a logical answer to shut an industry down.””

After the hearing, Mr Cunnington confirmed that the delays in opening up new live sheep export markets related to health protocols between Australia and the market country not ESCAS.

Mr Cunnington said it is understanding that Turkey had not reached out to Australia officially as yet, but has made it known that it is going to start negotiations soon.

“The trade has potential to expand,” he said.

Mr Cunnington said he understood there were “definitely” delays with the Australian Government responding to countries expressing interest.

Health protocol timeframes can vary – LiveCorp

The not-for-profit livestock export industry service provider, and research and development body LiveCorp is part of an industry and government protocol committee that identifies priority countries to work with, to enhance market access and conditions for existing and new markets.

LiveCorp told Sheep Central that negotiations around health protocols involve working with governments in Australia and other countries, and timeframes can vary significantly.

Livecorp confirmed that discussions underway regarding exports of slaughter sheep from Australia are:

Iraq – which expressed renewed interest in taking Australian livestock in November 2022

Iran – which expressed renewed interest in taking Australian livestock in early 2023

Morocco – which expressed interest in taking Australian livestock in February 2023, and

Indonesia – discussions began in May 2024.

In addition, shipments of sheep to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia re-commenced in December after a hiatus of more than a decade, with 69,000 sheep delivered to date.

DAFF denies giving lower priority to finalising health protocols

A Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry spokesperson said DAFF has not been putting a lower priority on finalising health protocols for new live sheep markets.

“The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry negotiates technical market access for agriculture products, including livestock.

“DAFF has limited livestock technical market access resources and prioritises negotiation work to markets and commodities that are likely to result in meaningful trade,” the spokesperson said.

“DAFF works with the livestock export industry’s protocol committee who provide input on prioritisation of market access work as well as technical advice on market access issues.

“This committee meets twice a year and last met in April 2024. Technical market access negotiations can take a long time to complete and are not always able to be completed,” the spokesperson said.

“A formally negotiated protocol is not mandatory for trade to occur.

“Importing countries may issue an import permit with animal health conditions.”

The spokesperson said provided those conditions and Australia’s export requirements as per the Export Control Act 2020 can be certified to by Australian Government officials, trade can occur on that basis.

“DAFF has limited livestock technical market access resources and prioritises negotiation work to markets and commodities that are likely to result in meaningful trade.

“Technical market access negotiations can take a long time to complete and are not always able to be completed,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said the department does not disclose details of specific government-to-government negotiations.

“However, we can confirm that DAFF has many open technical market access negotiations with other countries on heath protocols for a variety of commodities, including some relating to export of live sheep.

“Health protocols for livestock do not differentiate mode of transport (i.e. via sea or air) for export.”


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  1. Glen Wesley Smith, June 18, 2024

    We need to reinstate live sheep shipping in Western Australia. We need to keep all GST revenue in Western Australia because the government is closing down businesses here.

  2. John Blacker, June 18, 2024

    The live sheep trade is, and always will be, good for both countries involved. Holding this back not only hurts all livestock farmers in Australia, but also hurts relationships with other good trading nations.

  3. Rosemary Dowling, June 18, 2024

    Tell the farmers ‘No’.
    The only factor to consider is the cruelty of livestock travelling in a ship for a length of time in the heat! No, no, no. It’s wrong.
    Plus the shocking conditions the livestock have to endure with the inhumane don’t care handling when the livestock arrive at their destination.

  4. David Peebles, June 18, 2024

    It would appear that the now Federal Government is being herded by Greens and Teals to save its skin in the upcoming election.
    From my prospective, we have no control over the countries we export to and the welfare of the animals ceases to be a farmer’s responsibility once the sheep are unloaded in the country of destination.
    We are constantly reminded that the concern for the welfare of animals comes from the city, most whom have hardly been out of their metropolitan areas and have no idea that farmers do look after their animals.
    Let’s start a campaign in reverse the city woke mob and “export” them to the bush 👍👍👍👍👍

  5. Leon Clapp, June 18, 2024

    I am a grazier near Peterborough in South Australia’s mid-north. Recently, it has been very difficult to get any adult sheep killed at TFI (Thomas Food International) as thousands of sheep have been flooding our state from Western Australia. It appears obvious WA can’t slaughter the numbers of sheep they have, even with the live export trade, so how are they going to handle the situation if or when the ban comes into play?

  6. Katrina Love, June 18, 2024

    How illogical would it be to open up new markets for a trade that will end in less than four years? It’s absurd that they re-opened the trade to Saudi given their history.

  7. George Hamilton, June 18, 2024

    I am not in the ‘animal rights movement’; howeve,r my impression over recent decades, reinforced by the scandalous treatment of bovine at slaughter in Indonesia, is that grower care and concern for exported livestock is well below the desire to profit from the transactions. It was put to me several times “once on board not our problem”. For the sheep it is a tortuous transport. When government does the right thing concerning cruelty and abuse as with Indonesia the taxpayers are sued by the ‘caring’ growers on a punitive basis.

    Operationally missing is that in every contract should be a fixed arrangement for our government to immediately send a rostered ‘training team’ on exposure of mishandling/cruelty so to train and supervise the people handing export livestock. The inspection process I recall for more than a decade was thoroughly deficient, even when it happened. The cruelty was known and ignored…yes? “They are going to die anyway” is a repugnant dismissal.

    All livestock are familial and sensitive. In their own ‘free’ environment they are not ‘dumb’ and in our confinement they deserve to have experienced and caring handling all through their lives, not ‘not my problem’ handlers and ‘out of sight out of mind’ export people.

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