Joyce to push ESCAS changes

14 Apr, 2014 02:00 AM
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They say it's an intrusion on their sovereignty, and we had discussions about how we deal with that

CHANGES to the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) system will be pushed by Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce after his visit last week to the Middle East.

"Saudi Arabia still doesn't agree with the extent that the ESCAS system goes to," Mr Joyce told Fairfax after returning Wednesday from a flying visit to the Arab nation and Bahrain.

"They say it's an intrusion on their sovereignty, and we had discussions about how we deal with that issue," hew said.

"I don't want to say that we're going to get rid of ESCAS, but we have to try and work out whether we can get something to work in a form equivalent to ESCAS, but not so that it intrudes on another nation's sovereignty.

"We recognise where our limits are when it comes to Saudi Arabia."

There are significant opportunities for increased traffic of live sheep if protocols can be arranged to mutual satisfaction, Mr Joyce believes.

"They recognise our product is superior. They have other avenues for sourcing sheep in North Africa, but the Australian product is better and more reliable."

Revising ESCAS will also be instrumental to rebooting free trade discussions with the Gulf States.

The Middle East has for decades been a major market for Australian produce, especially wheat and sheep. Iraq and Yemen are among the top 10 buyers of Australian wheat, each accounting for about 7 per cent of exports.

With a fast-growing population and GDP growth to match, Mr Joyce thinks there are opportunities in the region that are being overlooked in the push towards Asia.

"It's great that we're all going to Asia, but some of our biggest markets are in the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia."

"All messages are read clearly, and if they see everyone charging over to Asia and forgetting about the Middle East, that would be a disaster."

Meanwhile, the Ukraine crisis is causing unease in the Middle East and North African (MENA) States, which are highly dependent on Black Sea grain.

In a briefing for Future Directions International, Natazsa Bariacto, Research Assistant with the Global Food and Water Crises Research Programme, wrote that sustained conflict in Ukraine increases the likelihood of Ukrainian farmers holding onto their harvests to hedge against the embattled country’s devaluing currency.

About 60 per cent of the MENA States' grain is imported, a significant proportion of it from the Black Sea region.

Ms Bariacto wrote that if the flow of grain from Ukraine is interrupted, increasing grain prices could lead to social unrest. For MENA's poor, even a small price rise can push staple foods beyond affordability.

High food prices have repeatedly been implicated in outbreaks of social unrest throughout the Middle East and Africa.

Ms Bariacto said other grain-exporting nations like Australia, the United States and Brazil might attempt to fill the shortfall left by Ukraine.

"Diversifying trading partners is a viable long-term solution (for the MENA States)," she said, but "in the short-term, there is little that can be done to buffer the region against food insecurity resulting from the Ukraine conflict."

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READER COMMENTS

Rob
14/04/2014 7:08:50 AM

Saudi Arabia claims that ESCAS is an intrusion on its sovereignty, that is somewhat of the pot calling the kettle black. Saudi Arabia could easily increase the level of chilled and frozen meat exported to the Kingdom from Australia by relaxing import protocols for Australian exporters. Saudi Arabia has a separate listing to most other Arab nations and require processing facilities adhere to their own set of strict guidelines, yet the neighbouring countries are more than satisfied with the regular Australian standards.
Archibald
14/04/2014 8:42:38 AM

Well finally Australia is seeing that it can't treat other sovereign counties like they are irrelevant. If little Australia keeps acting like its a big bully boy, it will bring on Australia's demise sooner than later. Besides the only people feeling the brunt of ESCAS are the livestock producers whom loose market opportunities and profitability as a result of ESCAS. Nobody else in the Australian community pays for this infringement of others sovereignty, only the livestock producer whom takes the below cost payments for his livestock.
Northern Exporter
14/04/2014 8:51:28 AM

" ... but not so that it intrudes on another nation's sovereignty." So they have finally realized that ESCAS is an attempt at social engineering and does compromise sovereignty and is severely affecting our trade in live export and diminishing our cattle producer returns. Asian countries are just as opposed to ESCAS as the Saudis but they must comply to eat and the smoldering resentment is there. Minister Joyce would do well to heed the seriousness of the implications of ESCAS and replace it completely with separate inter-government agreements.
RSPCA Australia
14/04/2014 9:19:29 AM

Any nation unwilling to meet ESCAS requirements should not be allowed to import Australian animals as it will allow the continuation of poor practices that don’t even meet OIE guidelines. ESCAS was put in place following systemic animal cruelty and is the bare minimum that should be required. There must be increased investment in the boxed meat trade in order to secure new markets for Australian producers and ensure the welfare of our animals.
Sue Head
14/04/2014 1:33:18 PM

Saudi is a signatory of the OIE and as such are required to be meeting OIE world standards which is what is required under ESCAS. We ain't asking them to do anything they shouldn't already be doing. In fact Australia has an obligation under the OIE as a developed country to promote the OIE guidelines as the preferred global standard for the humane treatment of animals. Something we take very seriously. Industry can no longer pretend to be improving animal welfare in importing countries if Joyce changes ESCAS. First it was MOU's. He's rolling back all AW protection.
rgovett
14/04/2014 2:51:06 PM

Well, so much for the promises that we are committed to animal welfare. That argument is pretty well out the window and it is very disheartening to see people rejoicing about this. ESCAS was put in place due to systematic cruelty, it was put in place to appease the public and build up our confidence in the trade. ESCAS was a lifeline to producers and exporters. Remove that lifeline then you have no hope of gaining public confidence. Go on, remove it, and to hell with the consequences because, trust me, there will be consequences. Everyday Aussies are watching so be careful what you do.
Ronnie
14/04/2014 5:41:54 PM

So when the next lot of sheep are rejected because of presumed illness and are bashed to death in the streets, we are supposed to just turn around and say "Oh but that is their way of life, they have the right to do whatever they want to Australian sheep/cattle/goats!" You make me sick if you think that is ok!!Australia should be stepping up and refusing to export to countries that don't even have basic human rights let alone animal welfare. The Australian people are waking up to the true extent of the cruelty involved in live export and it is only a matter of time before it is ended for good.
Inverell
14/04/2014 6:07:17 PM

"ESCAS was put in place" because of lies and paid mistreatment to gain video footage of cruelty of foreign owned stock. It was also implemented by a Government that has no regard for rural Australia or farmers and wants to see us all go to the wall. It's up to Mr Joyce to decide if the Lib/Nats are any better than Labour. If ESCAS is not removed and trade resumed the Nats are finished in the bush for good.
Archibald
15/04/2014 1:09:30 PM

Sue, "In fact Australia has an obligation under the OIE as a developed country to promote the OIE guidelines as the preferred global standard for the humane treatment of animals." Correct but Australia can't infringe other soveriegnty, and besides you neglect to mention Australia also has an obligation for the humane treatment of humans. How do you think we go about these obligations, send in the troops or what?? ESCAS is trying to so something that it can't under international law.
Ex farmer
1/05/2014 7:06:50 AM

Good on you Barnaby, you are out there having a go trying to get export markets up and running, which is far more than your predecessor did.
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