This year marks 10 years since the Australian Government introduced the Export Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS). It is a regulatory system that was designed to provide greater accountability of exporters in international supply chains and to provide assurance that the welfare of animals was being upheld in our international livestock markets.
In 2011 it was widely recognised that the industry played an important role in providing food security for our trading partners, as well as market opportunities for Australian producers and that the trade should continue. There was an expectation from the Australian community that additional systems needed to be put in place to provide greater traceability and more assurance that animal welfare would be upheld.
While no system is perfect, and there have been isolated incidents over time, ESCAS is a system that has been accepted, and in some circumstances embraced, by our markets. The success of ESCAS is a result of a genuine partnership with our customers and the demand for Australian livestock has continued to be strong despite the additional requirements – testament to the strength of these partnership and the quality of livestock Australian that our producers deliver.
When ESCAS was introduced, it was recognised that industry could also develop and implement an additional supply chain quality assurance system to complement the government’s compliance programs, which were recommended by the 2011 Farmer Review into Australia’s Livestock Export Trade.
As such, industry instigated the concept of the Livestock Global Assurance Program (LGAP). In 2018, an independent company, AniMark, was constituted by industry to develop and implement LGAP. Since that time AniMark has worked diligently to develop standards and recently received approved arrangements from the Department of Agriculture Water and the Environment (DAWE) to administer the program in market. This was a significant achievement.
The success of LGAP is critically dependent on gaining the engagement and acceptance of our international livestock markets – our partners. The current COVID pandemic is inhibiting the livestock export industry’s ability to personally engage with customers in-market. The inability to have face to face engagement has made implementing a new export supply chain conformance system, together with achieving in-market acceptance, impossible to date and will continue to do so for at least the next 12 to 18 months if not longer.
While we face challenges with the Delta variant in Australia, we don’t have to look far to our partners in Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Middle East to understand that things could be much worse. We must recognise that exporters and importers have done an extraordinary job to continue trading during the pandemic. However, there comes a point when we must be respectful of the immense pressure on our international trading partners and focus on our responsibilities as a provider of food security.
The Australian livestock export industry, in partnership with Australian livestock producers and the Australian Government, have invested significant time and funding into the development of LGAP. As an industry we are committed to the goals of LGAP which are to improve animal welfare and provide more effective and efficient regulatory outcomes.
While it is regrettable that LGAP cannot be implemented at this time, because of the pandemic, I am confident we can build on our existing collaborative relationship with DAWE through the regulatory roundtable process conceived by the Hon David Littleproud, so that continual improvement can be made in assurances of animal welfare and to deliver solutions that will enhance the sustainability of our industry.
Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council CEO