GILLARD BOWS TO INDUSTRY PRESSURE OVER LIVE EXPORT

Written on the 7 July 2011

GILLARD BOWS TO INDUSTRY PRESSURE OVER LIVE EXPORT

UPDATED: Following the exporters 'no comment' response to Brisbane Business News this morning, Australian Agriculture Company (AAco) CEO David Farley has released a statement in support of the Federal Government's lift on the Indonesian live catte export ban.

Farley stated to the ASX that AAco is moving to remobilise its supply chains and obtain the appropriate licenses required under the new regulations to resume export operations.

"The Australian Agricultural Company Limited welcomed the Federal Government's announcement that live cattle exports to Indonesia can be resumed, and the company is considering the announcement and the order from the secretary to determine the potential impact on the operations of the industry and the company," he says.

"Once the Company has been able to adequately assess the ability of the logistic chains to remobilise, the issuance of import licenses by the Government of Indonesia in the light of the Minister's announcement, the processes necessary to receive an export license, and other associated matters than a further update will be provided."

Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig lifted the live cattle export ban to Indonesia last night. Australia’s leading animal law authority says the issue is now at risk of ‘dropping off the radar’.

Ludwig’s revised export control orders places the onus back onto exporters to ensure their trading partners meet international animal welfare standards.

But Griffith University lecturer and Couper Geysen Lawyers consultant Steven White, says the real issues are not being been addressed and believes the government is bowing to economic pressure.

“The focus for the government has clearly been getting live export trade to Indonesia up and running as soon as possible,” says White.

“As with any these production areas, the economics of the issue have now come to the fore. The public are still concerned about it but when authorities begin talking again with industry the priority shifts to economics.

“What’s been proposed raises the same animal welfare issues about transparency and regulation of the industry that initiated the trading halt. The standards that have been required (by Ludwig), the World Animal Health or OIE guidelines, still don’t enforce the practice of stunning before slaughter.

“There is a risk it will drop off the media radar, but the prominent animal welfare organisations like the RSPCA and Animals Australia will continue to ensure the public are properly informed.”

Minister Ludwig believes the new arrangement will guarantee ‘the welfare of Australian cattle remains at the heart of this trade’.

“These strict new conditions have been written into all export permits,” he says.

“They require exporters to trace cattle from properties, onto vessels, into feedlots and into abattoirs that meet agreed international standards. Permits will only be issued to those exporters who can demonstrate that this will be the case.

“Exporters will have to collect and make public data on the consignments they take to market, including where animals are fattened, how they are transported and where they are slaughtered.

“Supply chains will be verified by commercial independent auditors with the entire process to be independently audited on a regular basis. These audit reports will be made public.”

AAco is Brisbane’s largest beef exporter  and  told Brisbane Business News in an interview on Wednesday that the issue had been poorly handled.

“We supported Minister Ludwig’s initial proposal to retain trade to 11 abattoirs which met international standards. In Indonesia, 20 per cent of the abattoirs supply 80 per cent of the meat to market,” says Farley.

“I’ve travelled with Ludwig several times and have always found him to be a logical man with good negotiating experience. He had a proper plan in place but the next day he announced a total ban – I’ve got no doubt he folded to the pressure of his caucus.

“AAco has been around since 1824 and in this time we’ve battled droughts and insect plagues, but this is the first time we’ve battled bad governance. It’s an awkward and preposterous position to put a company in let alone an entire industry.”

AAco has submitted a joint proposal with the Northern Territory Cattleman’s Association for the establishment of a cattle marketing pool with an initial seasonal loan guarantee of $25 million from the Federal and NT Governments.

The proposal related to the welfare of AAco’s herds in the NT and was in response to the ongoing delays to the resumption of the live cattle export trade with Indonesia.

AAco shares (ASX: AAC) remained steady at $1.44 following news of the lifted export ban.


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