Live Export

Ludwig leads livex mission amid deadline concerns

James Nason, 24/01/2012

Agriculture minister Joe Ludwig will lead a delegation of live exporters to the Middle East this week amid claims the Federal Government's stringent reform deadlines are putting valuable trade to important markets at risk.  

National media attention has focused in recent days on comments reported to have been made by Graham Daws from Emanual Exports in a leaked email that was sent to members of the Government’s live export task force.

In the email Mr Daws was reported to have said the industry had "grossly underestimated" the work needed to track and audit every animal exported from Australia to overseas abattoirs, and that requirements to complete supply chain upgrades in the Middle East by the end of February were too ambitious and unlikely to be met.

Supply chain reforms for every market were announced by Mr Ludwig in October last year in response to the independent Farmer Review.

They require exporters to put in place controlled and independently audited supply chains that meet internationally accepted animal welfare standards. Central to the requirements are full traceability systems that allow exporters to track movements of all animals at all times through their overseas supply chains to the point of slaughter.

The Government imposed a staggered system of deadlines to guide the roll out of the reforms across all live export destinations this year.

Exporters must secure accreditation for supply chains in Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Turkey by February 29 to be able to continue to supply livestock to those markets beyond that date.

This is 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.

Amid growing concerns that the tranche one deadlines for the Middle East may not be met, industry is understood to have lobbied Agriculture minister Joe Ludwig to visit the region and to meet with his Government counterparts in importing countries to explain the reasons for the animal welfare assurance system and to request their support in bringing supply chains up to required standards.

Senator Ludwig yesterday announced he will travel to the Middle East this week to meet with Governments and importers, and he will be accompanied by a delegation of Australian exporters, as well as representatives of the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council, Sheepmeat Council of Australia, Livecorp, the Cattle Council of Australia, and state and territory Governments.

Most grievances aired this week have surround live sheep exports, which used mob-based traceability systems.

Cattle exporters are subjected to the same deadlines as their sheep exporting counterparts to maintain trade with their Middle Eastern markets, which took 134,000 cattle, or almost 20pc of Australia’s total cattle exports, last year.

While the Middle East is an important destination in its own right, it has taken on added importance this year due to the recent cutbacks that have occurred in quota limits to Australia’s major market of Indonesia.

With exporters expected to fill the first quarter quota to Indonesia by February, the need to have all other markets running smoothly in March to help to absorb some of the cattle that would normally have been destined for Indonesia is increased. 

With Middle Eastern markets a three-week ocean voyage from Australia, exporters would have to be sure of achieving accrediation in early February, well before the February 29 deadline, to be confident of assembling and supplying shipments to the Middle East in March. 

Australian Live Exporters Council chief executive Lach Mackinnon told Beef Central yesterday that while the tranche 1 time-frames were "tight", the indusry was committed to achieving the Government's deadline.

“We are going to work very hard with the Government to deliver it,” Mr MacKinnon said.

“It is going to be expensive, the timelines are going to be tight, but we are working with Government to meet what is required of us.

"Obviously this delegation to the Middle East will be really looking for the Government to explain to the importing country Governments that we need their help as well to make this work.

“Both governments need to be heavily involved in telling everyone what is happening and why that is happening.”

Federal opposition agriculture spokesman John Cobb yesterday accused the Federal Government of putting an important trade at risk by bungling the supply chain assurance system and disregarding the needs of Australia’s live exporters in overseas markets.

He said there were four “glaring errors” in Mr Ludwig’s supply chain assurance system (SCA).

“Firstly, it is crazy to imagine that in the Middle East in particular, one could roll out an SCA system without engaging in government to government agreements to ensure the most productive outcomes,” Mr Cobb said.

“Secondly, in a dozen or so countries with vastly different cultures, governments, bureaucracies and multiple supply lines, it’s frighteningly naïve to imagine one rigid system could be implemented overnight.

“Thirdly, in highly unregulated systems (by Australian standards) it’s unlikely these operators will simply make their business public and provide contract and transaction details just to satisfy an Australian audit system. This will basically condemn Australian exporters and processors to a serious loss of market.

“Fourthly, to set an arbitrary implementation date given all the above is ludicrous.”

“The feedback I am getting from industry suggests that the government’s engagement has not been sufficient enough to ensure changes can made within the proposed timeframe and I am deeply concerned that there may be another major shock to the industry if the government doesn’t step up to the challenge.”

Mr Ludwig said the Gillard Government was committed to securing the long-term future for Australia’s livestock export trade, and that required Australian exporters to be able to ensure acceptable animal welfare outcomes, which the SCA was designed to achieve.

He said the official visit was an important way to communicate the reforms to foreign Government Ministers and key Middle Eastern importers, thereby assisting Australian exporters as they establish their supply chain assurance systems.

The Gillard Government has committed $5 million for exporters on a co-contribution basis who wish to upgrade their supply chains to improve animal welfare outcomes. An additional $10 million is also available to assist eligible countries improve animal welfare outcomes.

The delegation will visit Saudi Arabia from 27–29 January, Kuwait from 29–30 January, Bahrain from 30-31 January and Qatar from 31 January to 1 February.


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