Middle East importers act as Australian live sheep exports halt

Terry Sim, July 30, 2018

Australian sheep loading onto an export vessel.

AUSTRALIA’S Middle Eastern live sheep markets are turning to other sources as a stalemate between live exporters, the regulator and Animals Australia continues to stall shipments from Western Australia.

Middle Eastern countries, including Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait are reportedly facing sheep shortages in the lead up to the annual Festival of the Sacrifice or Eid al-Adha, starting on August 24, because Australian shipments have ceased.

Sheep are normally exported from Australia every two weeks in the lead up to the Eid festival, with most supplied by Australia’s largest live sheep exporter Emanuel Exports. However, the company and its subsidiary, EMS Rural Exports, have had to halt shipments after their export licences were suspended by the Department of Agriculture Water Resources.

The majority Kuwait government-owned Al Mawashi/Kuwait Livestock Transport and Trading Company operation imported 1.28 million Australian sheep in 2017, of 1.88 million exported live from Australia. But Sheep Central has been told with the numbers of Australian sheep on hand in Al Mawashi’s 250,000-head Kuwait feedlot rapidly dwindling, and little prospect of more Australian sheep arriving soon, Kuwait has been forced to import sheep from other Middle East countries including Iran and Jordan. These are now available for purchase online via an Al Mawashi app. Live export sources said Qatar has recently sourced sheep from Somalia, Sudan and Armenia.

An Emanuel spokesman said the intention was still to export sheep held in a feedlot outside Perth in Western Australia. About 60,000 sheep were left in the feedlot after the licence suspensions, and although some have been sold to processors, the company intends to export about 45,000 under new stocking density rules. However, an arrangement with a licensed exporter has not yet been secured and the latest suitable departure for the sheep is to be determined.

“The intention is still to export these sheep to Arabian Gulf, and Emanuel is working to ensure this is done sooner than later,” the Emanuel spokesman said.

The spokesman said it is not too late to ship the WA sheep to the Middle East during the northern summer, and a vessel departing from Fremantle on August 1 or 2 would still arrive in time for the Eid festival.

The intended shipper and ultimate importer of the WA sheep, Kuwait Livestock Transport and Trading, has not given up on getting the sheep to the Middle East and still has two ships anchored south off Perth – the Al Shuwaikh and Al Messilah. Sheep Central has been told the Australian sheep might also still be marketable in the Middle East to replenish market stocks consumed during the Eid festival.

Middle East trade is open says Littleproud

Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud has repeatedly stated that the live sheep trade to the Middle East is still open. In a letter in the West Australian last week, he said one reason live sheep shipments are not leaving now is that a major exporter (Emanuel Exports) has been suspended by the independent regulator.

“To suggest that the Federal Government is being dictated to by groups who want the trade banned is laughable – the trade is open.

“The live export trade is open to those who do the right things – and will remain so.”

However, WA exporter Livestock Shipping Services is not planning any Middle East shipments under the new McCarthy Review stocking density rules and another exporter Harmony Agriculture and Food has suspended Middle East sheep shipments citing uncertainty due to the threat of legal action by Animals Australia against DAWR if any exporter is issued with a licence to export sheep during the northern summer months.

The animal rights body has threatened 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.

However, Federal Member for O’Connor and chair of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources Rick Wilson has told Sheep Central that an exporter “would just need to have a current licence that doesn’t have ‘show just cause’ notices attached to it.

“Animals Australia have notified that they will take out an injunction, which will be tested in court.

“I would very much hope that the licence issued by the department would be found to be valid, but that will be for a judge and a Federal Court to decide,” he said.

Mr Wilson said he believes Middle East sheep shipments are “certainly still possible because there are single-tier ships which have better ventilation than the older ships.”

“But moving forward, ships will need to be upgraded to ensure animals are transported in the best possible conditions.

Clear direction needed for WA exporters

Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA president Tony Seabrook said he was still investigating the possibility of the industry seeking assistance from the Australian Farmers Fighting Fund to fight any potential legal battel with Animals Australia.

Although the mooted AA legal action would be brought against the regulator, rather than an exporter, Mr Seabook said he would discuss the possibility of AFFF assistance with exporters. He has been told any fund applicant needed a Queens Counsel legal opinion on the case’s aspects that could cost $30,000-$40,000.

Mr Seabrook said there are still three exporters in Western Australia, which could still export sheep – Wellards, LSS and Harmony Agriculture and Food – but he believed there needed to be more engagement by Mr Littleproud with the WA industry.

“The minister needs to actually come over here and talk to these people.

“We’ve got three exporters who would really like to sit down with him and nut out a way through this, but not while there are booby traps there,” he said.

“These guys need a clear direction, yes or no, do this and it will be OK, but not this ‘have a go and see what happens’.

“What the exporters need is for the minister and the department to say ‘this is the way through’, but at the moment they are feeling completely shut out.”

‘Perfect storm’ to hit WA sheep producers – Seabrook

Mr Seabrook last week said the removal of Australia’s largest exporter of sheep from the summer trade, and the current lack of clarity over the export process following the rejection of an export permit for 60,000 sheep left stranded in WA following the suspension of Emanuel Exports in June is creating a level of economic uncertainty for livestock producers throughout the state.

“Already we have seen two exporters, Livestock Shipping Services and Harmony Group’s Phoenix Exports, cancel their consignments to the Middle East and stop buying sheep, resulting in hundreds of thousands of sheep that are normally exported remaining on farm.

“If this trend continues, Western Australian sheep farmers could be faced with a perfect storm of no buyers for their sheep over spring and into summer, resulting in an oversupply, a drop in prices, and overstocking of pastures,” he said.

“Despite assurances from animal rights activists that these sheep can be easily processed onshore and then exported to the Middle East, the reality is that the export of livestock is not easily interchangeable with the export of chilled or frozen sheep meat.

“This limits the marketability of over 1.5 million West Australian sheep, and impacts on the livelihoods of the thousands of WA livestock producers who rely on this essential trade,” he said.

“WA’s rural and regional sector can ill afford to have the clouds of bureaucratic unpredictability continue to hang over the granting of export permits” Mr Seabrook said.

Mr Littleproud today called on exporters to “step up and show Australia they can do this and do it right”.

He said suggestions he should meet with exporters who are suspended and under investigation are dangerously ill-considered.

“I’m in discussions with WAFarmers to organise a visit to meet with their members.”


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  1. Jennifer Macdougall, August 1, 2018

    No Bert, it is not OK, but we cannot control that and two wrongs never made a right. The whole manner in which animals are treated across the Middle East leaves an enormous amount to be desired. I have no doubt the sheep being sourced in other countries are suffering as ours do, but at least they are not being subjected to a two-week voyage from the south into over 40 degree heat. As for Winston’s incorrect statement about the loss rate on ships compared to loss on farm; well, if a farmer kept his sheep in such condition that 1-2 percent of them died every two weeks then he would soon go broke by the end of the year for he would lose between 26-52pc of his flock.

  2. Bert Mann, August 1, 2018

    So Jennifer, as long as they’re not Australian sheep being sent into this market it’s OK? Because they are sourcing other live animals now that Australia is perceived to be too hard to buy out of.

  3. Jennifer Macdougall, July 31, 2018

    Winston Crane, you need to get your facts right. The images of sheep dying that we saw were taken over five voyages and is in fact the norm in the summer months. And Emanuel lost over 3000 on another ship the year before and LSS over 4100 on one of its ships. The truth is animals have been dying in their tens of thousands on these ships over decades and dying horribly and the industry went blithely on thinking that the public would keep on turning a blind eye. Well, no longer.
    The industry has had decades to phase out of the live trade as recommended in the ’80s and develop on shore processing and marketing of sheep meat. The live trade is already being overtaken by the chilled trade, down by some 4 million sheep per year , so clearly farmers in WA have made major changes and can now take the final steps. And there is no excuse for overstocking farms or standing by while animals starve to death.
    There will always be a market for the sheep, maybe less lucrative, but a market none the less. Farmers have a duty of care to their animals, no matter what the economic or seasonal circumstances might be and must put the welfare of the animals above all else. As a farmer myself, I accept that duty of care.

  4. Winston Crane, July 30, 2018

    The shipping of livestock is a legal activity. The welfare of the consumers is paramount. They have a right to receive their meat in the form they require. To starve them of a basic food requirement is criminal.
    The welfare of the sheep is also paramount. The death rate on board is now three sheep in every 1000. Sheep naturally die at a rate of 6 percent. So the shippers are doing a pretty good job. Natural death occurs on board, like on land. One bad experience does not condemn an industry to oblivion.
    If an airliner crashes and all on board are killed, you do not stop air travel you fix the problem. The same principle applies to the export of livestock.
    Also, likewise the welfare of producers and those in the trade is paramount. If it is stopped or interfered with you effectively saying, take a cut in your wages; there is no justification for that.
    Nobody has the right to condemn one section of a legitimate industry to poverty. The resulting soil degradation should not be forgotten. Overstocking will result, leading to starvation of stock through overgrazed paddocks. Animals Australia is not about fixing problems and helping people, but about destroying an industry and its people.

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