A consignment of Australian cattle placed under a freeze more than eight weeks ago by the Egyptian Government due to the presence of hormone growth promotant implants has been cleared for processing.
But those treated with HGPs will only be allowed to be processed after the capsules are removed from their ears, after the issue generated a storm of negative media coverage in the country and widespread reports that HGP treated beef is unsafe for human health.
The shipment of 15,000 cattle was imported by Sokhna Livestock Imports in July to supply Egyptian demand for beef during the Ramadan period.
However, the consignment was prevented from being processed after Egyptian Government veterinarians discovered HGP implants in some of the animals’ ears.
Egyptian import protocols do not cover, or prohibit the use of, HGP implants in imported cattle, and Egyptian officials had inspected and approved the 15,000 head consignment for export before it left Australia.
However, when Egyptian Government vets discovered HGP implants in the ears of the first cattle processed from the shipment, Egyptian officials suddenly ordered that the consignment be withheld from further processing until more information was known about HGPs.
Since then the importer, the exporter Emanuel Exports, the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Meat & Livestock Australia have been involved in discussions to assure the Egyptian Government that all internationally peer reviewed information indicates there are no adverse implications for human health from appropriate use of HGPs.
Richard Leitch from Sokhna Livestock Imports advised Beef Central yesterday that the company had finally been given the go ahead to begin processing the cattle, which have been held at the company’s port-side feedlot since their arrival in late July.
“We are back in business at last,” Mr Leitch said.
The company processed 71 head on Wednesday, and had been given the go ahead to start on the non-HGP cattle first.
Sokhna Livestock Importers operates a "closed loop" feedlot and abattoir facility at the port of Sokhna, where imported cattle are processed according to Australian Government approved standards, with the meat then sold to local butchers.
“We have around 1500 that do have the HGP in the ear that the Egyptian government vets are going out to oversee the removal of the capsules and then wait 60 days for them.
“It is a very simple job to remove the capsules so we will get on with that from Sunday.”
While HGPs are not mentioned in Egypt’s import protocols, it seems unlikely that exporters will be able to source HGP-treated cattle for further shipments to the market given the high level of sensitivity to the issue caused by negative media reporting within Egypt.
Whether HGP-treated cattle will be allowed in future will ultimately be a decision made at Government to Government level, but in the meantime an important tool for growing cattle in tropical areas is also likely to make cattle harder to sell into one of Australia’s most promising growth markets.
Mr Leitch said he was grateful for the work of industry and government officials to help secure a resolution to the long-running stalemate.
“I’d just like to thank MLA and Daff for their help in resolving this. It wasn't a very nice experience for anyone,” he said.
More information about hormone growth promotants in the cattle industry can be found on the Meat & Livestock Australia website here