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Bid to ban beef from live exported cattle being sold as ‘Australian’ product

by James Nason, 19 June 2017
8

It would become illegal for beef processed from exported Australian cattle in another country to be sold and re-exported as “Australian product”, should a Private Members Bill introduced to Federal Parliament today be passed.

The Bill – see in full at this link – is being introduced by Federal Member for Mayo and Nick Xenophon Team member Rebekha Sharkie, with the support of the Member for Kennedy Bob Katter.

The Bill is understood to be a direct response to recent plans announced by Gina Rinehart to export 300,000 cattle per year to China.

Beef Central has reported at length about the increasing prospect of beef from exported Australian cattle being processed and re-sold as Australian beef, and the concerns this has raised in some quarters about the reputational risk it may pose to the Australian brand, and the prospect of boxed Australian beef soon having to compete with ‘re-exported’ Australian beef in key markets like Japan, Korea and China.

The Private Members Bill seeks to safeguard the reputation of Australia’s beef industry as producers of safe ‘quality’ food, the Members told a press conference in Canberra this morning.

The group representing Australian meat processors, the Australian Meat Industry Council, also spoke in support of the legislation at the press conference.

AMIC General Manager, Processor Group, Patrick Hutchinson told Beef Central said the council had no role in developing the legislation, but agreed when asked by the Members to speak at their press conference, because their proposed legislation supported AMIC policy.

AMIC’s support for the legislation was not an attack on livestock exports, Mr Hutchinson said.

“Certainly our policy is to support live export in the competitive Australian market place in the purchase of livestock, we’ve always been supportive and continue to be so.

“But it is also our policy that Brand Australia is protected and sacrosanct, and therefore we believe that the only beef that should have the Australian brand applied to it is beef that is processed in Australia.”

‘This is purely and simply about the protection of Brand Australia.’

Australian meat processors shouldered the highest regulatory burden in the world, he said, and their investments in world leading processing standards should manifest into a world leading brand.

“And that is what Australian beef and sheep and goat is, a world leading brand that is clean and green and safe, and has the utmost in the protection of welfare of animals and staff that process the product.

“This is purely and simply about the protection of Brand Australia.”

Proposed legislation ‘unworkable’: Live exporters

ALEC CEO Simon Westaway

However, livestock exporters have labeled the proposal contained in today’s Private Members Bill as lacking merit.

ALEC CEO Simon Westaway said while the livestock industry welcomed Ms Sharkie’s interest in upholding the brand value of Australian red meat, her proposed reform was unworkable and failed to acknowledge the integrated nature of Australia’s red meat supply chains.

“Livestock producers are rightly very proud to have the meat derived from their stock marketed as ‘Australian’ in our overseas markets, regardless of whether it is exported as a boxed product, a whole carcase or shipped live,” Mr Westaway said.

“Australia produces a range of world-class farm commodities which are exported prior to processing due to the specific demand of the importer. Nonetheless, they are still Australian products and it is incorrect to suggest that they cannot or should not be marketed as such.”

Australia’s livestock export trade was one of the nation’s top 10 agricultural exports, generating $2 billion annually in export returns and providing employment for up to 10,000 Australians per year, Mr Westaway said.

“The industry is a significant economic contributor by any measure. Any effort to deny our producers the right to have the beef from their cattle marketed as ‘Australian’ is wrong,” Mr Westaway said.

“When red meat from the live trade is marketed as ‘Australian’, we’re not just selling a commodity. We’re selling global best-practice animal welfare standards and the benefits of our significant investment in supply chain infrastructure and ongoing skills and training programs.”

Mr Westaway said Australia’s live trade is built on demand which is specifically for live Australian animals and, more broadly, for affordable sources of protein from a reliable supplier of a high-quality product.

“Australia’s red meat sector is best served by strong live export and boxed sectors, which together maximise opportunities for producers with a full range of market options,” he said.

“Our livestock and red meat supply chain draw much of its long-term resilience from the integrated way in which stakeholders cooperate. Such integration, which is a pillar of the national red meat sector’s strategic accord – the Meat Industry Strategic Plan 2020 (MISP 2020) – helps us to promote Australia’s red meat brand, and grow our overall production and value for the benefit of all stakeholders.

“With this in mind, all red meat industry stakeholders would agree that there needs to be more political attention paid to the removal of unnecessary regulatory costs and inefficiencies that challenge our productivity, curb innovation and compromise our competitiveness in overseas markets.”

 



Reader's Comments


Comment
  • Barry Moule June 19, 2017

    As if another country is going to abide by our Laws. This is a feel good exercise and another waste of Public money. It aint going to work. Or is some Politician and Bureaucrat(s) heading to the UN for several years on a Tax Payer funded jolly to plead our case. Nothing but a joke and massive leap of faith.

  • John Gunthorpe June 19, 2017

    This is a storm in a teacup. Overseas customers always ask for the processing plant establishment number when enquiring about supply. This is clearly identified on the boxed meat and no overseas processor even in China can use an Australian establishment number when packing their meat. Anyway how do the independents introducing the bill intend the legislation be enforced?

    In the 1980s when the NZ exchange rate was more 1.30 and drought was biting in NZ, AMH organised an import protocol and brought in a couple of shiploads of NZ feeder steers and heifers to transfer from the port of Brisbane up to Beef City. These animals were grown out at Beef City, processed and boxed as Australian beef. No trouble there.

    Unfortunately Simon, animals tend to lose their identity when slaughtered and boned out. My greater concern would be the branding of Chinese domestic animals as Australian beef. Substitution has always been a problem in our industry. Running steer boxes for an hour after the heifers had commenced being processed was a practice of one of the first AMH shareholders before merging their interests into AMH. Japan was a market where substitution was a way of life for the processors and importers.

    AMIC supporting the bill is a concern. It shows a serious lack of understanding of the red meat business. Now Lachie Hart knows about trading meat but perhaps he did not review AMICs position on the bill before Patrick weighed in.

  • Andrew McCaulay June 19, 2017

    Simon Westaway’s comments represent a significant shift in ALEC thinking. Up to now, any time the issue has come up, ALEC has simply ruled it out as a possibility.
    He just doesn’t get it. An Australian animal which picks up a chemical residue or pathogen while on feed in a foreign country, and is then detected in residue or e.coli screening tests damages Australia’s reputation – regardless of the fact the contamination has occurred overseas. Allowing such cattle to be branded as “Australian beef” represents colossal risk for the Australian beef industry. Once again, live exporters are only thinking of themselves.

  • Malcolm Caulfield June 19, 2017

    Mr Moule is right. As a lawyer, I cannot see this working. Getting someone ‘engaged in the business of exporting cattle’ (what does that mean?) to ‘take all reasonable steps’ (what does that mean?) to stop product being marketed as Australian is so much pie in the sky. In any case, there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of a private member’s bill getting government approval. It just doesn’t happen. So as Beef Central has predicted, it will probably come to pass that beef from our exported cattle will be sold as Australian. You just won’t be able to stop it.

  • Jack Randles June 19, 2017

    Any country which imports live Australian domestic animals has the right to process those animals in their own country & present the processed meat as originating in Australia but packed & processed in their country. You see this package description everyday in Australian supermarkets. Its quite a simple step to downsize the country of origin & emphasise the country of process & pack , & I have no doubt this process is being carried out overseas now as we here discuss what to do.
    Many years ago when the first Australian owned/operated feed lots were established in Indonesia, I must admit, at that time I thought the next step would be Australian owned/operated modern meat works opened in Indonesia with the express business model of processing those cattle in a possible quarantine situation for export as Australian boneless beef processed in Indonesia. I don’t think this has happened but Indonesia is’nt China.
    I doubt that any law appertaining to food production passed in any Australian court will have any international standing, unless agreed too by the country it is aimed at.

  • Kate Chapman June 20, 2017

    Little wonder it takes so long for any legislation to pass through Parliament when time-wasting issues such as this are raised. Our democratically-elected representatives should be promoting Australian industry. Unfortunately, processing in Australia is unaffordable, evidenced by the number of food processing plants, and not just meatworks, that have closed. I’m sure if Gina Rinehart thought local processing was economically viable, she couldn’t open meatworks close to her cattle properties fast enough. The global fresh food market is highly competitive, and Australia runs the very real risk of being left behind. We simply can’t afford to allow that to happen.

  • Eion John Allister June 20, 2017

    Couldn’t agree more with the sentiments expressed in the last paragraph of the story. Let’s look at the red tape and costs established by our industry here in Australia as well as in the export procedures. Starting with the whole traceability industry and the ridiculous multi levy situation where this applies to each transaction. I have no problem with the levy on animals going to slaughter or export but everything in between is fleecing producers for no benefit other than cash collection for MLA and others. I can tell you that the 60.00 dollar LPA charge which is heralded for October, would be a good place to start by hitting that on the head. I am wondering when there will be a Dexa reading charge applied at the works that producers will be required to pay? It seems that there are folk who lie awake at night dreaming up ways to make producers pay for their bright ideas rather than seriously looking at ways of reducing producer and supply chain costs.

  • Jane Lochrin June 24, 2017

    Nice idea that Australia can control what happens in other countries. Ever heard of “shutting the gate after the horse has bolted?”

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