LIVESTOCK export industry leaders say a Ministerial decision today will save the industry upwards of $40 million per year.
The Federal Government has been preparing to introduce stringent new restrictions to stocking densities on cattle export vessels as part of the introduction of the Australian Standards for Export of Livestock (ASEL), version 3.0, on November 1.
The industry had questioned the necessity of the changes given the limited scientific evidential basis, and said the proposed changes would cost the industry tens of millions of dollars without providing any benefit to animal welfare.
The Federal Minister for Agriculture has this afternoon confirmed to industry leaders that amendments to ASEL 3.0 will mean that current stocking densities will now remain in place from November 1. A Departmental Export Advisory Notice confirming the changes is expected later this afternoon.
The Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council (ALEC) and the Northern Territory Livestock Exporters’ Association, along with Cattle Council of Australia (CCA), AgForce, the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s’ Association (NTCA) and the Kimberley Pilbara Cattle Association (KPCA), had actively advocated for the Federal Department not to proceed with the previously planned stocking density reductions.
Industry representatives have long been seeking a change toward incentive-based regulation that recognises performance, and say the amendments confirmed today will provide that.
“This has now been delivered,” ALEC CEO Mark Harvey Sutton said.
“The changes to ASEL 3.0 are based on demonstrated evidence of exceptional voyage performance of cattle exporters, particularly to South East Asia – something that was acknowledged by the independent ASEL Review panel and supported by reports from independent observers.”
“Cattle producers now have an additional level of assurance under ASEL 3.0 in the knowledge that the regulatory system rewards those who perform, ensuring that animal welfare is of the highest priority.”
Mr Harvey-Sutton said cattle voyages have had excellent outcomes under existing ASEL 2.3 stocking densities, and the economic impact to cattle producers and exporters would have hit hard had the reduced stocking densities in ASEL 3.0 remained.
Anecdotally, industry figures indicate this could have had an economic impact of approximately $40 million to the cattle supply chains in northern Australia, with up to 130,000 less cattle being delivered to South East Asian markets for no improvement in animal welfare.
He said the amended ASEL regulations would not be to the detriment of animal welfare given the changes have already been delayed for 12 months and exporter performance has not declined in its absence.
The industry research and development corporation LiveCorp has also committed to undertake further research to provide scientific evidence on cattle stocking densities which will be an important body of work as industry strives for continuous improvement in animal welfare.
Amendments to ASEL 3.0 are understood to include:
- Transitional arrangements will apply from 1 November 2020 to 30 April 2021 enabling existing exporters to automatically gain access to the alternative minimum pen space allocation for cattle exported from all Australian ports to all markets until 30 April 2021;
- From 1 May 2021, the criteria to access the Alternative minimum pen space allocation policywill need to be met to maintain access. This includes the requirement of achieving and maintaining a 12 month rolling average voyage mortality rate of 0.1% or better.
- The Alternative minimum pen space allocation policy has been amended to include all cattle from all ports in Australia, with ASEL 3.0 to be amended to include alternative stocking density tables for all cattle from all ports in Australia.
More details on the new arrangements will be published as they become available.