MANY farmers around Western Australia are in a state of doubt with the current situation and unstable nature of the live sheep trade.
Western Australia is unique – 85 per cent of Australian sheep that are live exported are from WA.
We dominate the trade nationally.
A ban on the trade will be detrimental to our growers at farm level and will have a knock-on effect to other industries that support the trade.
Shearers, feedlots, backgrounding facilities and transport and haulage companies – many of which are family owned and operated – will feel the pinch as much as any farmer.
All of these service providers and many other businesses make up the communities will be left to deal with economic damage done to those who rely on income from sheep producers and the wider farming community.
WA is first and foremost an export State – it’s what we do best – we export commodities around the world, whether that is grains, vegetables, hay, wool, iron ore, lithium, gold, truffles or processed meat and live animals.
Global markets depend on WA for food security and we have been providing a steady sheep and cattle supply chain to our international markets for more than 60 years.
Two thirds of WA’s sheep meat is already processed domestically and a percentage of this product would be going into Middle Eastern markets.
While these customers will take processed meat, they also require live animals.
This is an example of Australia’s trusted and reliable reputation of meeting the individual needs of our export customers.
Exporters need our support and input to reliably continue sheep export activities throughout the year.
Consistency of supply will lead to consistency of purchase.
The foundation of global trading is built on successful business relationships.
Any disruption to market availability has an immediate impact on supply chains and threatens Australia’s reputation as a reliable food source.
If disruptions are evident, customers will shop elsewhere.
As a result, I would expect cross-commodity consequences with trading partners losing confidence in Australia’s ability as a primary food supplier.
Livestock Shipping Services recently announced a halt of its live sheep export operations over the northern summer months – add to this the suspension of the export licence issued to Emanuel Exports and a less than ideal start to the winter growing season for pastures and crops, and there will be hundreds of thousands of sheep stranded on farms in WA.
Farmers will increasingly find themselves under pressure to find and pay for feed and will be mindful of the welfare of animals in the paddock.
This could have been avoided if shipping had been able to continue as planned.
We would prefer the trade to continue with all advancement of animal welfare being considered.
The McCarthy Review has made recommendations that I believe, coupled with continued research and adoption, will see animal welfare risks minimised and the trade continued.
Many people ask why Australia needs a live sheep trade and why our animals cannot be processed domestically.
Australian consumers simply do not eat older sheep and offal.
Chilled boxed meat is not a viable option to many export markets due to cultural and religious preference.
Without new, establishing markets to take up these products, animal wastage will be significant and the economic loss will cripple our industry at a producer level.
Live export is a controversial and emotive topic, but it needs to be discussed in its entirety.
The majority of people outside of the agricultural industry do not fully understand the ramifications of a total ban on Australia’s live sheep trade.
The livelihoods of our producers, supporting businesses and local communities who are solely dependent on farming for economic stability will be most significantly impacted.
There is a widening disconnect between agriculture and the broader Australian society.
The opinions of those who support a total ban of the trade, purely on the premise of animal welfare, need to understand that there is much more at stake.
To highlight the importance of the live sheep trade to the wider population, beyond the agricultural community, WAFarmers with Sheep Producers Australia and the National Farmers Federation have launched a website purely for sharing the facts behind Australia’s livestock export industry.
It is every farmer’s responsibility to be promoting the industry and highlighting the important work we do to provide Australian and international consumers with high quality food.
I urge you all to share this website with your networks and educate the whole community about the live sheep trade – liveexportfacts.com
For those who wish to help protect the industry we welcome your help by donations to the combined Industry Fighting Fund enabling a measured and balanced view to be shared with all at gofundme.com/ProducerFightingFund