While Australia’s livestock export industry deals with fresh crises in Qatar and Pakistan and ongoing technical barriers to trade in the key market of Indonesia, a simmering issue in another import market continues to burn unresolved.
It is now more than six weeks since Egyptian authorities ordered that a shipment of more than 15,000 Australian cattle be withheld from processing due to the presence of hormone growth promotant implants.
The arrival of a second shipment of Australian cattle imported by another buyer early last month took the number of Australian cattle held in the market to 30,000.
HGPs are not covered by Egyptian import protocols and the market has accepted numerous shipments of Australian cattle that contain the growth implants in the past. The consignment was also inspected and approved for export by Egyptian authorities before it left Australia in early July.
However on this occasion, and without advance warning, Egyptian authorities imposed a sudden freeze on further processing of the cattle when veterinarians identified HGP implants in the ears of some of the first cattle from the shipment to be processed in Egypt.
The cattle were imported to help meet Egyptian demand for beef in the peak season of demand during the holy month of Ramadan. However, both consignments have not moved from the two feedlots they were delivered to in late July and early August.
Despite having conducted numerous tests over the past six weeks, Egyptian authorities slaughtered another 25 cattle last week in order to take more samples.
A spokesperson from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry told Beef Central the department has been working to assure Egyptian authorities that all internationally peer reviewed information indicates there are no adverse implications for human health from appropriate use of HGPs.
The cattle are now either finished or close to it and the mounting costs of carrying them on feed while Egyptian authorities delay is eating further into the importers’ margins by the day.
“We need to start working through them soon as many are finished and it will be hard to cover the feed costs out the weight gain,” a representative of one of the importers, Richard Leitch, told Beef Central.
He said the owners of the importing company he works for had been keeping money up for feed, and the cattle were not suffering at all and “looked amazing”.
“Anybody that has any understanding of feeding cattle will know how much its costing per day to feed 15,000 plus cattle in a feedlot when nothing is moving through the system.
“We are still gaining good weight but the cattle are getting pretty heavy now so we are nearing the top of that curve now.
“The Australian embassy and Meat & Livestock Australia have been and continue to do what they can but it is still 100pc an Egyptian political issue and it would seem no amount of trying from our side is speeding things up.”
A DAFF spokesperson said Egyptian authorities continued to oversee the cattle to ensure that animal welfare standards agreed in the Australia Egypt memorandum of understanding were maintained.
“Operators of the feedlots in Egypt have advised Australian Government officials that both feedlots have at least two weeks of feed on site with access to more feed should it be required,” the spokesperson said.
“Negotiations are continuing between Australian and Egyptian Government representatives, both in Australia and Egypt, to ensure that the cattle are processed in a timely manner.”