WHERE will Australia’s livestock export industry be in five years time?
The industry’s levy funded research and development provider LiveCorp has had a comprehensive go at answering that question in its new five-year plan released yesterday.
While it takes an optimistic view on where it believes the industry can and should be in five years’ time, it doesn’t shy away from the active and “real and present” dangers the industry will have to navigate and the skill that will be required to achieve that vision.
In constructing the plan the authors spoke to 53 people, focusing on what the industry should prioritise over the next five year period, and what LiveCorp itself should be seeking to achieve in the same time frame.
The document draws a clear line in the sand that “a past marked by controversy and reactive excesses must be left behind.”
Chair Troy Setter expanded on the point in a media release launching the plan yesterday: “Collectively, there’s strong desire to build on historical successes, and leave behind those parts of the past that have been marked by controversy in favour of a viable, longer-term future,” he said.
The plan also bears out a level of frustration from the dozens of people consulted that despite the efforts and investments that have been made to heed calls for improvements in welfare-related practices, the collective can still be let down by individuals.
“While the livestock export industry is deserving of criticism for past poor practices, on the whole it is more responsible and professional than incidents involving one or two of its members would suggest,” one line in the plan document reads.
The plan sets an optimistic goal that in five years’ time Australia’s industry “has made substantial progress towards confirming its legitimacy”, its contribution to the national economy and animal welfare is recognised, individual livestock exporters act as responsible corporate citizens who hold themselves to mutual account, and in which accidental high mortality events are a rarity that do not trigger an existential crisis for the entire industry.
It also carries a message that the quality and thoroughness of LiveCorp’s research which has been praised in the past, should be given greater weight by the Government regulator to bring about regulation that is balanced, well-informed and evidence-based.
While some strategic plans refer to potential threats and risks, this one refers directly to risks that are already “active” as opposed to possible, and dangers that are already “real and present”.
Key among the most immediate threats identified are the COVID-19 pandemic and the unfolding global economic recession it has triggered.
“In neither of these instances is there room for evasive action,” the document notes.
“The fact that they have not affected the livestock export industry so far does not mean that they will not do so in a five-year timeframe, given the uncertainties involved.”
Of particular importance to the Australian livestock export industry is the fact that countries classified as emerging markets and developing economies, many of which are buyers of Australian livestock (like Indonesia, Israel, Kuwait, Malaysia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam), are likely to be harder hit by the economic impact of COVID-19 than many.
Increased nationalism and shifts to higher tariffs by trading partners; disruptions to established weather patterns and production through climate change and global warming; incidents of poor animal care and mistreatment threatening the viability of the entire industry; and continued pressure from activists, aided and abetted by social media, are among the key risks identified over the next five years.
On the latter, the document calls for a “firmer, more articulate and altogether more compelling response (to activism) than has been the case in recent years”.
“The industry’s ongoing engagement with, and education of, the audiences that determine its future are as urgent as they are important.”
To steer the industry through the next five year period the plan sets out 13 strategic goals in four areas.
Included are commitments to develop an effective framework for monitoring and reporting on the health and welfare of animals across the export supply chain by 2025; building the skills, knowledge and capability of people throughout the supply chain, improve the quality of data to shape well-balanced regulation for the industry and increase communication activities with wider community and the Department and regulator.
To read the full document on the LiveCorp website click here