CERTIFICATION fees for live export companies could increase by 300 per cent as soon as July 1 - a move labelled unfair and bewildering by industry stakeholders.
The Federal Department of Agriculture is proposing an increase in certification fees to recover costs involved in the live export of animals.
The department is expecting to incur costs of up to $11 million in 2014/2015 from the export of live animals with revenues of $6.7m, leaving a shortfall of $4.3m.
Since the fee was last revised in 2009 the department said trade patterns had changed substantially and the focus had moved to the administration of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) for which no recovery arrangement existed.
The department said the increase proposed for 2014-15 was necessary to ensure revenue was commensurate with expenses.
Industry had until May 16 to comment on the proposed changes and the department is reviewing submissions from stakeholders.
The Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) condemned the proposed fee hike and said in its submission to DAFF it was bewildered by the review.
"The PGA notes that whilst this review seeks to justify a fee increase, the consultation period of Minister (Barnaby) Joyce's Agricultural Competitiveness issues paper has recently closed," the submission said.
"The PGA is bewildered that whilst the department's Minister is seeking to improve agricultural competitiveness, the Minister's department is seeking to drive fees up and reduce Australian agriculture's competitive position."
The PGA had consulted with WA exporters and found that they believed DAFF was dumping its administrative overhead costs into the ESCAS fee structure.
"Apparently there are two Canberra-based departmental officers for each active livestock exporter," the PGA said.
"In other government agencies that deal with human welfare, such as the police and community services, one officer can deal with several cases at once.
"ESCAS has nothing to do with importing country requirements and everything to do with Australian domestic policy.
"The PGA believes public policy driven by sentiment, rather than recognition of the factors needed to make Australia a favourable trading partner, should not be paid for by livestock exporters."
PGA policy officer for livestock Ian Randles said it was likely the fees could increase from anywhere between 100 to 300pc and could have serious implications for exporters.
Australian Livestock Exporters Council chief executive officer Alison Penfold was not at all happy with the cost recovery proposed.
"We are prepared to pay our way and respect the notion of cost recovery," she said.
"But we are being asked to pay well over what is deemed fair and reasonable.
"We are being asked to pay the equivalent of $670 an hour to process an export application and that is beyond all reason."
Ms Penfold said Australia was already trying to compete against nations that do not have the same level of regard for animal welfare.
"Now we are being punished because we do care (about animal welfare) through these ridiculous costs," she said.