AUSTRALIA’s biggest live sheep exporter Emanuel Exports has had its licence cancelled by the independent regulator after what it described as a “thorough investigation and show cause process”.
The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR), handed down its decision at 8:30pm last night (WST) in accordance with the requirements of the Australian Meat and Livestock Industry Act 1997.
It said it had “taken action against this company in the best interests of the industry and for the protection of Australia’s high standards of animal welfare and health”.
“Cancellation of licence is a serious step and is not one taken lightly,” DAWR said.
“The department is satisfied that this is the most appropriate response.”
The decision was handed down 60 days after the initial suspension of Emanuel Exports licence in June, which has seen the industry encapsulated in a fog of uncertainty and concern.
The WA based company shipped more than one million sheep to the Middle East in 2017, making up more than 80 per cent of the trade out of WA, and without its presence in the industry sheep producers will likely lose a market for their wethers, despite other exporters still able to trade.
There has also been flow-on effects with Williams, WA, based mill Macco Feeds having to consider laying off staff due to the downturn of supply and livestock transporters who have struggled to find work to replace the amount of carriage they do for export companies.
No shipment of sheep has left Fremantle Port for 10 weeks, and it is unlikely that any of the remaining exporters will test the new requirements that have been put in place by the adoption of the McCarthy Review recommendations by the Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud until after the Northern Hemisphere summer.
Prior to the announcement by the regulator Emanuel Exports was still hopeful that it would be able to resume trade - with two livestock vessels the Al Shuwaikh and the Al Messilah waiting off the coast of Fremantle for the all clear to continue supplying Kuwait and other Persian Gulf States.
Emanuel Exports director Nicholas Daws said the company would “appeal this decision to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal”.
“Emanuels is a leading exporter of Australian livestock, and we will appeal this notice as a matter of priority,” Mr Daws said.
“Emanuel Exports is a family business specialising in livestock export, and we have a proud history of complying with Government regulation over many years - having established and grown a leading livestock export business over three generations and more than half a century.”
Mr Daws said the company remained committed to maintaining the highest animal welfare standards.
Prior to the licence cancellation a company spokesperson said they had cooperated fully with DAWR’s investigation and supplied all the required documents to assist investigators.
The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), WAFarmers and Sheep Producers Australia have expressed confidence in the decision to cancel the licence of Emanuel Exports.
In a joint statement NFF president Fiona Simson said “from the beginning we have called for the Regulator to be robust and transparent in enforcing the regulation governing the operation of exporters and the protection of animal welfare and health".
"This is what has happened overnight and it is a step forward to rebuilding the trust of farmers and all Australians and to securing the future of the trade,” Ms Simson said.
WAFarmers president Tony York said livestock exports were a crucial component of WA’s sheep industry and without it, sheep numbers would decline dramatically, hurting farmers, regional communities and the workers and businesses that make up the value chain.
"Fortunately, the trade remains open and we look forward to working with other exporters to enable its resumption," Mr York said.
Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) president Tony Seabrook has expressed its extreme disappointment over the cancellation of the export licence saying there were “no winners in the decision, except for those animal activist groups determined to see the end of all live exports”.
“The repercussions to the Western Australian livestock industry of removing Australia’s largest exporter of sheep are widespread,” Mr Seabrook said.
"Removing our largest exporter from our key markets only serves to destroy an industry which provides much needed jobs, supports regional businesses and communities, and provides a strong livelihood for thousands of WA farming families.”
He said the removal of Emanuel Exports from the market would only lead to an overstocking of pastures, a loss of trade to the Middle East, and a future drop in prices.
“It is pure folly to believe otherwise, and that the other exporters and processors will be able to take up the surplus stock,” Mr Seabrook said.
“Eighty per cent of the sheep export trade has now been knocked out, thanks to the actions of a group of faceless bureaucrats in Canberra, and a Minister who is indifferent to the impact of such a decision on WA sheep producers.
“Western Australian livestock producers, their families, and their communities deserve better."
The RSPCA has welcomed the cancellation of Emanuel Exports licence but said “removing one leading exporter is not enough to protect animals or farmers from the cruelty and volatility of live export”.
RSPCA Australia senior policy officer Dr Jed Goodfellow said the organisation was waiting confirmation of the permanent cancellation or otherwise of the two other licences associated with Emanuel Exports' partner corporations, EMS Rural exports and International Livestock Exports (ILE).
Dr Goodfellow said the RSPCA remained “concerned there has been no indication of what improvements will apply from October onwards, following the highest-risk Middle Eastern summer period”, especially in regards to stocking density.