SHEEP can be safely exported to the Middle East during the northern summer months, according to Western Australian-based ASX-listed exporter Wellard Ltd.
However, Western Australian farmers now urgently need to know if it can be done economically after recent events temporarily stalled the Middle East operations of the nation’s two biggest live sheep exporters.
WA live sheep exporter, Livestock Shipping Services, is reviewing its northern summer Middle East operation and Emanuel Exports has been forced to seek an export licence lifeline for 60,000 sheep after its licence was suspended while the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources investigates whistleblower footage of over-heated Emanuel shipment sheep dying en route.
LSS has also calculated that costs associated with the new northern summer stocking density and shipment rules amounted to an extra cost of $35 per sheep for the 70,000 sheep it recently shipped under the regulations.
WA farmers estimate hundreds of thousands of sheep formerly intended for live export are now in limbo on farms as the live export developments unfold. However, Wellard this week said it was unaffected by the developments. Although it has exported very few shipments to the Middle East in the past two years, the company said its large ships had state-of-the-art ventilation, automated feeding and water distribution systems that were ideally suited to northern summer voyages.
Wellard executive director operations Fred Troncone said it was important to note that the Federal Government has not closed down the live sheep trade to the Middle East, but was responding to a specific issue relating to another exporter.
“The supply of sheep to the Middle East remains an option for Australian exporters under new rules recently implemented by the Australian Government, which require animals to be loaded to a lower stocking density during the Northern Hemisphere summer and to be provided with greater care during all voyages under the supervision of an independent observer,” he said.
“It is Wellard’s position that sheep can be safely exported to the Middle East in a manner that meets community expectations provided the right shipping regulations, the right on-board management practices and the right levels of accountability are in place.
“We believe that the tough new rules implemented by the government will bring about positive change across the industry,” Mr Troncone said.
“The current changes proposed to Australian livestock shipping standards, which are governed by Marine Order 43 and are proposed to come into force at the start of 2020, will place Wellard in a position that will reward the company for its investment in a young, purpose-built, technologically advanced fleet of livestock vessels.”
Wellard said its fleet of vessels is currently fully utilised on a mix of charters by third party exporters from South America to Mediterranean markets and a number of Wellard-managed voyages to destinations in South East Asia, China and Sri Lanka.
WAFarmers president Tony York said whether sheep can be economically exported is the other issue.
“He (Fred Troncone) is saying he can do it safely, but can he do it economically?”
Mr York said WAFarmers supported the McCarthy Review recommendations “on the basis that that science allows a pathway to continue to have the (Middle East) northern summer trade.”
“We want it to continue and we are supporting the process, but we have always pre-empted it on the basis that there are two issues here – it can be done safely, but whether it can be done economically is what we are waiting to see.”