The absence of Turkey from agriculture minister Joe Ludwig’s itinerary to live export markets in the Middle East this week has prompted some in the trade to ask why Australia’s second largest cattle export market has not been included.
Mr Ludwig led a delegation of Australian exporters to the Middle East last Thursday for a whirlwind six-day tour of livestock export markets in the region.
The purpose of the visit is to meet with Government officials and importers to explain why Australia is introducing new animal welfare assurance systems in each market and to encourage their support in implementing the improvements so they can continue to receive Australian livestock.
Exporters have been given tight deadlines to bring supply chains in every market up to internationally accepted animal welfare standards this year.
They have until February 29 to achieve export certification in Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Turkey, followed by deadlines of August 31 for Israel, Japan, Jordan, Malaysia, Oman, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates, and December 31 for Brunei, Mauritius, Russia, Vietnam and all other markets.
Beyond those dates exporters will only be able to supply livestock to Federal Government approved supply chains in each market.
Mr Ludwig’s leg of the tour includes three of the four countries included in the first tranche of export certification deadlines –Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar – as well as Saudi Arabia, which is included in the August tranche.
Some exporters have privately questioned this week why the minister would not make a priority of personally visiting Turkey, given its importance to Australia’s live cattle industry.
Turkey is Australia’s largest cattle export market in the region, and is considered one of the brightest growth prospects of all of Australia’s live export markets.
However, given its proximity to other sources of supply, Australia also faces strong competition there.
Some are concerned that the introduction of new supply chain assurance systems by Australia and the additional costs and logistics they involve will make it harder for exporters to compete in the market. High-level Government dialogue is essential to assist with the transition, they believe.
Turkey has recently approved cattle imports from European suppliers such as France, Romania and Hungary, as well as from Mexico, and the concern is that the market might find it easier in the face of Australia’s new SCA requirements to source their animals from elsewhere.
However the minister’s office said Turkey will still be included on this tour, just not with the minister, who flies out of Qatar for Australia on February 1.
A spokesperson said the minister had to return to Australia in time for the first parliamentary sitting of the year on February 7.
While she acknowledged that Turkey was an important live export market for cattle, she said Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia were also significant markets for live sheep exports.
While the minister would not personally visit Turkey, she said the delegation would continue on to the market in his absence, led by senior Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry officials.
Several live export industry representatives are on the tour including Cattle Council of Australia president Andrew Ogilvie and Australian Live Exporters Council president Peter Kane.