WAFarmers working on future of live sheep trade

WAFarmers remains hopeful that arrangements can be negotiated, and sheep and cattle will continue to be shipped from Fremantle port before the end of October.

A viable option could see Kuwait Livestock Transport and Trading (KLTT), the owners of the ships which have been responsible for moving 80 percent of WA livestock are in a position to obtain their own export licence following the federal regulators cancellation of Emanuel’s Exports licence, who had the charter of these ships.

Failing these potential arrangements, we hope they will charter their vessels to a company who has a valid export licence. As a key infrastructure provider we can’t afford to lose these ships from visiting Australian ports.

WAFarmers would like to see sheep, which farmers have produced for the live trade, to move into the global market as a matter of priority. By utilising KLTT as an export provider option that ensures this occurs promptly and under best practice animal welfare conditions.

The industry has continued to lobby the Federal Government, the Opposition and crossbench MPs to ensure common sense returns to the debate.The future of the live sheep trade will ultimately be decided by the government and the senators who are elected at the next federal election.

In light of the trades fragile position, farmers and aligned businesses have come together to support the Promote Agriculture Fund which is a campaign that aims to counter the claims that the trade should cease.

The group involved in the Promote Agriculture Fund is finalising a plan that will help rebuild community confidence in the industry.

It will counter the Federal Labor Opposition position of phasing out the trade if they are successful in forming government in 2019. Labor and crossbench Senators will be targeted with facts, not emotional slogans, to help them understand that the live sheep trade is essential for viable and sustainable farming enterprises to operate in this state.

The loss of the live trade will only drive sheep numbers down below the critical 10 million mark in the state; thereby threatening the viability of major regional employers such as the WAMMCO processing facility in Katanning.

Sheep will not; as some claim, simply be diverted to local processing facilities to be destined for the boxed meat trade. They are very different markets and factors such as domestic processing costs and sale prices do not compensate farmers for the loss of the trade.

What does this mean for our sheep producers? Industry will see an increase in the number of cropping enterprises, and it will speed up the shift to self-driving large machinery. Sheep will be replaced by crops, and many workers who live off the sheep’s back, such as shearers, truck drivers and stockmen will all be hung out to dry.

The loss of the industry will directly hit small businesses and people who rely on the trade for their jobs. The impacts will devastate regional WA.

Mount Barker lamb producer, David Slade. Picture: Laurie Benson

On top of our community engagement strategy, we have written to the federal government seeking to gain further explanation from the regulator as to what grounds the Emanuel and EMS export licences were cancelled.

In the name of transparency, the entire industry is calling for more information to be released to determine the reasoning behind the permit cancellations. At this stage as far as we know the trade has been halted due to a very unfortunate coincidence of weather related events that were no fault of the licence holder.

We understand the powers of the regulator, we just want to understand why they have made the decision they have made.The facts need to be put in front of farmers as they are currently planning their breeding programs for the coming year, it is essential we know what markets are available and what shipping services are running.

The industry as a whole remains supportive of the McCarthy summer trade guidelines as they provide assurance the highest standards of animal welfare will be met, and upheld. We need an opportunity to test these conditions to gauge their effectiveness, and ensure that continuous improvements are always being made.

The regulator needs to sit down with the industry to ensure clarity on the definition of ‘summer months’ and ‘stocking densities’ over this period.

Industry is more than willing to work co-operatively with the regulator to achieve an outcome that ensures the trade is viable throughout the supply chain while not compromising animal welfare standards.

We know from 50 years of trading history that it is safe to trade from November through to the end of April under winter trade conditions.We also know that KLTT has made a significant investment in shipping design with a new state-of-the-art vessel due join the fleet in early 2019.

There are now improved shipping routes, improved ventilation and testing, lower stocking densities, more oversight, real time rigorous reporting and increased penalties.

These improved measures have been set to increase compliance and ensure the world’s most regulated live sheep trade is safe to continue. Farmers and the broader community can have faith in the trade and know that Australia will continue to lead international standards well into the future.

We should be proud, that Australia plays an important role in encouraging livestock importing nations to follow Australia’s world-class example when it comes to world’s best practice in animal welfare.

Collectively, these measures will improve the social licence of this legitimate trade; that is critical to all Western Australian sheep producers.

David Slade

David Slade

David is the WAFarmers Livestock President and Mount Barker lamb producer.

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