THE WA live export cattle trade is operating near capacity, while the beef processing export industry has virtually ceased to exist, according to speakers at a recent forum. Speaking at the United Beef Breeders Association's (UBBF) Beef Production 2000 Onwards forum at Mundijong recently, WA Live Exporters Association chairman and Fares Rural operations manager Alastair Moore said the company now exported 200,000 cattle a year live. In contrast to Mr Moore's speech, EG Green chief executive officer Garry Minton said, unless the company responded to predictions of further live cattle export growth, it would go out of the beef export processing business. "The WA processing industry has practically closed down," he said. Mr Minton said EG Green was in the process of an efficiency drive to reduce costs by between $70 and $90 a head in order to stay viable. "We have said, if we make good profits, we are prepared to share that," he said. "This is an attack on us, not the live cattle trade." Mr Moore said there had been some dramatic changes in the live export trade in the 1990s, starting with Indonesia's economic problems and followed by the outbreak of BSE in the UK, with its implications in the Middle East. He said the main WA live export market at present was Egypt, which took 340-550 kilogram steers of all breeds with no more than four teeth, with a preference for bos Indicus cattle. Mr Moore said, while the Libyan market could pick up, there was only a certain amount of long-haul shipping available. He said, due to financial difficulties in Indonesia, operations there had mainly been through joint ventures. Fares Rural charters a fleet of ships and also owns the Danny FII and the Farid F, which have capacities of 15,000 and 3300 head respectively. "We have got a 40,000 shipment every six weeks to North Africa," Mr Moore said. He said the dairy industry had benefited from the shortage of good breeding cattle in Mexico, with 7000 Friesian heifers sent there in the past three years. While most of the live cattle exported from Australia were still sent to the Philippines, cattle sent to Egypt brought about $100 a head more, at an average of $500. Mr Moore estimated freight costs at between US$400 and US$500 a tonne, while the value of cattle sent to Egypt and the Philippines from WA up to July was worth $64 million and $50m, respectively. Mr Moore said Brahman and Droughtmaster were best for the live trade due to good flesh, plenty of muscle and the fact they travelled well compared with breeds popular in southern areas. He attributed the success of these cattle to the increase in the Egyptian trade. Mr Minton said a comparison of a week ending in August last year to the same week this year showed processors were getting lower prices on everything except offal (up $7 a head) and meat cuts, up 30 cents a kilogram. The major decrease was on tallow, down $235/t, with dried blood down $170/t. He said Malaysia was the major client in tonnage and value, with last year's value at close to $10m, followed closely by the US at $9m and Indonesia with a $7.5m trade. Mr Minton said the company was air-freighting five containers of chilled beef a week to Indonesia, with some delays recently experienced due to deteriorating relations between the Australian and Indonesian governments over East Timor. Mr Moore said cattle exported live accounted for about 10pc of the number of cattle slaughtered nationally. "I think there is room for everybody," he said.