WA live export industry unites

19 Sep, 2013 02:00 AM
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WA Live Exporters Association chairman John Edwards:
WA Live Exporters Association chairman John Edwards: "You only need to plot live export figures since the introduction of ESCAS and volumes have gone south and prices have gone south with them."

BUREAUCRACY and red tape are the major challenges with the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS), but industry professionals say the system is working.

They said the next step was to focus on a united push to engage the new Federal Government.

These were the main messages from a meeting of representatives from the export supply chain which took place in Perth earlier this week.

Stud Merino Breeders Association of WA president Kevin Keatley said it was a positive meeting and successful in that there was now a united stance from the entire supply chain to take to government.

"There is a united push for supporting the sustainability of, and addressing the on-going issues for live export," he said.

"We need to work with government to grow the sector and make it all happen."

Australian Live Exporters Council (ALEC) chief executive officer Alison Penfold said the meeting armed the entire supply chain with information about the trade.

"There was some very good discussion and good debate with a focus on working together to stress the importance of government helping us to open new markets," she said.

"It is important the supply chain sends united signals about the opportunities and challenges to government."

The meeting included representatives from all major State and national bodies including WAFarmers, the Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA), ALEC, Meat and Livestock Australia, Cattle Council, WA Beef Council and was collaborated by the Australian Stud Merino Breeders Association.

The group also discussed the roll out of welfare improvements, future opportunities and the regulatory environment including opportunities for ESCAS reform.

Red tape and bureaucracy in ESCAS were major challenges for the livestock export industry and the group sought to streamline some of the processes to ensure a more cost effective and efficient system.

Mr Keatley said ESCAS was working, but some issues needed to be addressed.

"In a nutshell, ESCAS is working, it has achieved some outcomes which needed to be achieved, especially on the animal welfare side of things," he said.

"But with any new system there are parts that can be improved which is what we focused on in the meeting.

"Something that has already happened is changes to the auditing system, which take effect from the end of this month."

Ms Penfold said the export sector had been working in that space for some time and it was clear there were opportunities to focus on reducing duplications, improving efficiencies and cutting costs.

She said work was also underway to enter emerging markets and re-enter previous markets.

"There are still on-going investigations into Egypt and we are working hard to look at markets like Iran, Thailand and China," Ms Penfold said.

"The future of the trade is strong and with the improvements in animal welfare we have set our sights on reaching exports of five million head of cattle, sheep and goats in two to three years."

PGA beef and sheep committee executive officer Ian Randles said the meeting highlighted the importance of live export to the entire WA farm economy.

"There was a wide range of exporters in the room and some of those people are traditionally not the best of friends," he said.

"But live export is serious stuff in this State and it was important we achieved a uniform and unified position for the entire supply chain."

WA Live Exporters Association chairman John Edwards said the meeting focused on options to make ESCAS a more workable system.

"There are opportunities to move forward with amendments and modifications and improvements to ESCAS as well as considering other measures by which we can adopt a similar regulatory framework to deliver outcomes which are far less onerous," he said.

Mr Edwards said those options would include looking at a quality assurance type program with the enforcement and empowerment behind it to secure the animal welfare outcomes that industry needs for overseas markets.

"Industry has long had issues with the various paperwork requirements, the audit process and the cost of ESCAS and we are looking for all means to put volumes back in the industry," he said.

"You only need to plot live export figures since the introduction of ESCAS and volumes have gone south and prices have gone south with them."

WAFarmers president Dale Park said the meeting allowed an honest and transparent discussion on ESCAS and what its challenges were.

"The challenge with ESCAS is that it has a policeman-type attitude, 'Are you doing this or aren't you'," he said.

"There seems to be no room for grey areas to look at continual improvement, which is what we want to focus on.

"There needs to be room for improvement."

Mr Park said government played a critical role in ensuring ESCAS was efficient and its challenges were addressed.

"They hold all of the power and need very much to be involved," he said.

"Everyone involved in the meeting was keen to grow the live export industry, and government will play a big part in that."

Mr Park said without live export there would be little future for the entire livestock industry in WA.

"With a new government we have to let them settle in and work out where they going and we want to help them as much as possible," he said.

"It was good to have a full and frank discussion about where we want the industry to go and what solutions we have to grow the industry, which is what needs to be done."

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READER COMMENTS

boris
19/09/2013 7:45:02 AM, on Farm Weekly

If all this unity advocated for the scrapping of ESCAS what would the government do? I suspect the industry will look back, when Abbotts first term of government is in its final weeks and see little change to the ESCAS system. I suppose its more important than anything to never rock the boat!

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