Author Topic: Sheep wait while live exports in limbo 19.9.2012  (Read 654 times)

WA Export News

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Sheep wait while live exports in limbo 19.9.2012
« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2012, 07:07:24 PM »
Sheep wait while live exports in limbo Simon Santow reported this story on Wednesday, September 19, 2012

ELEANOR HALL: The Australian Government has put live sheep exports on hold as it urgently tries to clarify its terms of trade deals with Middle Eastern countries.

The halt in granting export licences follows Bahrain's decision to reject a shipment of 20,000 live sheep because of disease concerns and then Pakistan's move to cull the sheep once it bought them.

The impasse is now creating problems in Western Australia where hundreds of thousands of sheep are awaiting export.

As Simon Santow reports.

SIMON SANTOW: Some farmers in WA are contemplating shooting their sheep if exports to the Middle East don't resume soon.

It's a sentiment the state Agriculture Minister, Terry Redman, says he understands but hopes it won't come to that.

TERRY REDMAN: There's been some threatening comments about that. I don't think it's at that point yet. I think a lot needs to happen before they get to that point, there are a range of options that farmers will need to and should consider and I'm sure will consider prior to that.

But of course it does concern them that a normal pathway into a market is not available to them and particularly a lucrative pathway and given the last couple of years in terms of seasons in Western Australia particularly around the grains industry, people are looking for the best price they can to keep their businesses as viable as they can.

SIMON SANTOW: Terry Redman says the clock is ticking.

TERRY REDMAN: The concern that producers in Western Australia now have is that they're reaching the end of their season, their pastures are starting to dry off and they're starting to run out of feed for their stock and it's at this point in time they would normally be getting a lot of those animals into the live trade which is quite a lucrative market for Western Australia.

And I think we export something like 75 per cent of the live sheep that come out of Australia and with the concerns of the trade being stopped at the minute whilst a range of issues are being sorted out in the Middle East of course that backlogs right back to the farmer's paddock and that is very concerning.

SIMON SANTOW: There are estimates that 200,000 sheep have been caught up in the backlog caused by the freeze in exports.

TERRY REDMAN: I'm keen to see this trade start up again as soon as possible in a timely and pragmatic way. But that said, that may well be that in some areas of this state they need to look for some alternative markets. And those options will be fast presenting simply given that the season's running out.

SIMON SANTOW: Trade can't resume until the Federal Government is satisfied the various agreements it had negotiated with export customers won't unravel in the future, as they have done in Bahrain and Pakistan in recent days.

Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig on News Radio this morning:

JOE LUDWIG: We have to maintain animal welfare when we export sheep. The live animal export trade is an important one for Western Australia. I had an opportunity yesterday to speak to Minister Redman, the WA Minister on the issue and both levels of government are working to identify solutions.

What we do have to do is ensure that the exporters can maintain control of the ship right up to slaughter to maintain animal welfare. So we're working very quickly to resolve that.

SIMON SANTOW: Joe Ludwig is urging exporters to develop a plan B for when agreements fall over.

JOE LUDWIG: It would be one of those areas where the exporters can find alternative markets and they would be actively doing that now. It's very critical to look at animal welfare because it would be a matter that is clearly an issue in some of those markets and you'd want the confidence of the exporter that they can unload sheep in a country and have them go to slaughter.

SIMON SANTOW: The industry says it's not that simple.

RON CULLEN: I'm certainly not prepared to go there right now. Our focus is entirely on getting this trade re-started today, tomorrow, you know, some of that speculation's probably not going to be in the best interests, long-term interests, of industry.

SIMON SANTOW: Ron Cullen is the chief executive of the Sheepmeat Council of Australia.

RON CULLEN: In an industry like the sheep industry you don't readily move a large amount of product from one place to another. We do an enormous amount of work on market access for the boxed chilled and frozen trade and we're certainly continuing to do that.

But the issue today is for Fred Bloggs who's out there with 2000 wethers that aren't being picked up tomorrow. And he's got lambs coming through and he's got a drought on his hands. So we need to get some movement straight away.

You're now asking about a longer term issue that we're working really hard on behind the scenes.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Ron Cullen, the CEO of the Sheepmeat Council of Australia ending Simon Santow's report