Live Export

Live exporters spell out motivations behind QA push

Beef Central, 13/11/2013

The livestock export industry has released an information paper outlining why it is progressing with plans to develop a quality assurance program.

It follows claims by animal rights groups in mainstream media last week that live exporters are trying to use an industry-based QA program to “take back” regulatory control of animal welfare in the live export trade from the Government.

The information paper, relased by the Australian Livestock Exporters' Council, states that a QA program will be independent of industry and compliance with the requirements of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System would still be achieved.

“ESCAS will remain the normative standard,” the information paper says.

“Furthermore, a condition of export would be conformance with the Program as demonstrated through third party certification.”

The paper explains that in 2011, the Australian Government-commissioned Farmer Report into the livestock export trade recommended that industry develop a through-chain quality assurance (QA) system to complement government regulatory and compliance programs.

In response to that report and following the implementation of ESCAS, ALEC commissioned the Meat & Livestock Australia/LiveCorp Live Export Program to fund research into the feasibility of a risk management and quality assurance program to complement ESCAS.

ALEC says the purpose of the research was to consider the relevance of an industry-initiated risk management and QA program or management solution; conformance with which would facilitate ESCAS compliance.

The purpose of the LiveCorp research was to:

  • Identify all existing systems and resources being utilized to achieve ESCAS compliance and assess the strength and weakness of such systems;
  • Identify, review and document risk management and QA models in place in other industries and sectors;
  • Examine the cost of compliance with the current ESCAS framework;
  • Consider the relevance of an industry-initiated risk management and QA program or ?management solution; conformance with which would facilitate ESCAS compliance;
  • Make recommendations for the development of such a program.

ALEC said the Schuster Consulting Group Pty Ltd was awarded the consultancy through a competitive tender process and undertook extensive research and consultation with exporters.

The consultants reviewed 10 non-livestock export QA and/or risk management programs to ascertain whether they could be transposed in part or in full to the live export industry, and a further 17 programs, manuals, reports, guides and documents.

The consultants also examined how exporters manage ESCAS compliances.

Their final report made 26 recommendations and considerations including:

  • A QA Program complemented by a risk assessment component be developed to support the live export industry in aspiring to best practice and achieving ESCAS compliance;
  • That the requirements under ESCAS form the normative standards for the Program such that conformance with the Program will mean compliance with ESCAS;
  • That the Program be independent of industry;
  • That the Program be underpinned by third party certification;
  • The Program should be implemented to allow for and encourage international participation and ?presents a significant opportunity for improving global animal welfare standards;
  • In order to avoid issues associated with sovereignty, the Program must be independent of government;
  • In order to avoid issues regarding conflict of interest, the Program must be independent of government;
  • Government must have a high level of confidence in the certification process;
  • That it be a unit/node based so exporters can “build” supply chains;
  • That the risk management component is included to strengthen compliance/conformance ?assurances;
  • That implementation be phased to mitigate costs of entry;
  • The Program be driven by an independent international steering committee to deliver ?sovereignty not currently present within ESCAS;
  • It should include a central management system;
  • There should be recognition of Program participation through appellation ie. a Program that ?delivers a recognisable value proposition to participants that could be a marketing asset .

At an ALEC members meeting on October 30 livestock exporters endorsed the research report and agreed to the next phase of research which will deliver a design and implementation plan, timeline and costings.

Questions and Answers

The paper also provides answers to questions that have been raised about the industry’s moves to QA:

This is just self regulation, isn’t it? ?No. The Program would be independent of industry. ?Compliance with ESCAS requirements will be achieved under any alternative Program – ESCAS will remain the normative standard. Furthermore, a condition of export would be conformance with the Program as demonstrated through third party certification.

How will breaches of ESCAS be dealt with under the QA system? ?The QA program is yet to be designed, however appropriate measures will be built into any QA system to manage non-conformance. ?A non-conformance with the Program would be addressed through corrective actions. For example if a facility in-market received a non-conformance, it would not be able to be utilised by an Australian exporter until such time as those non-conformances were rectified.

We keep seeing terrible abuses of Australian animals in overseas markets. How does the industry really expect to manage itself through QA? ?Australian industry will continue to be required to meet the animal welfare outcomes set out under the ESCAS framework. A QA program could facilitate greater adoption of systems for improved animal welfare across international borders without being perceived to be impinging on a country’s sovereign rights.
What oversight and control will the Australian Government have over livestock exporters? ?Exporters will still need to demonstrate to the Australian Government's satisfaction that they have an ESCAS compliant supply chain. If they cannot, they will not receive the necessary export approval. The Program would assist in demonstrating compliance.

How would this Program differ to ESCAS in ensuring in-market compliance? ?The QA system is yet to be fully designed, however careful consideration will be given to key drivers that better facilitate the adoption of improved practices and oversight systems to ensuring animal welfare outcomes. 

Source: ALEC


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