AT least one exporter has been approved for the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance Scheme (ESCAS) meaning a shipment can be sent to the Middle East for the first time in almost a month.
WA's live exporters have been working since October last year to have the ESCAS in place in Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Turkey under the new regulations imposed by the Federal Government following the Bill Farmer review into live exports last year.
Farm Weekly can reveal Emanuel Exports has been granted ESCAS approval to Kuwait and another two exporters are getting closer to approval.
Farm Weekly understands all three exporters are now in the market buying sheep for their first shipments.
The ESCAS approval is the first breakthrough for live exporters under the new regulations which will be imposed throughout all live export markets by the end of the year.
Emanuel Exports managing director Graham Daws said while the company did have an ESCAS with Kuwait, the shipments were dependent on two or three markets being viable, and the company was still working on getting ESCAS approval in other markets.
"But there has simply not been enough time allowed to get everything in place," Mr Daws said.
"The industry has said from day one that there was insufficient time (to implement the ESCAS) and we have said that the Gulf has been a long-term customer of Australia and they have never had any issues.
"The whole Gulf depends on the continuous supply of meat.
"One can only imagine how they are going to perceive us once their normal flow of meat is not there."
Mr Daws said Emanuel had a ship delayed in the Gulf but it was now on its way to Perth and would be out of Fremantle by the end of the week.
Though there seems to be some sort of relief for sheep producers, Mr Daws admitted there were still delays until the company knew what it could ship.
WA Live Exporters Association (WALEA) chairman John Edwards said despite the recent ESCAS approval of the shipment to Kuwait, the Middle East livestock trade remained on-hold.
"The shipment is still in doubt as its viability is dependent on being able to ship animals to other Arabian Gulf markets that have not yet completed the audit and final sign-off requirements of ESCAS," Mr Edwards said.
"The marketing to multiple importers is a major component in filling all vessels trading to the Gulf and for some time this point seems to have been missed by Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF).
"For the exporter every vessel leaving Australia must be fully loaded and must do multi-country discharges otherwise it will be uneconomical."
Farm Weekly understands the total cost of the implementation to exporters alone was in the millions of dollars and many farmers were concerned the costs would eventually be passed onto them.
Mr Edwards said exporters took particular concern that rising costs in the export supply chain would be passed back to the producer.
"It is simply not true," he said.
"When you track, for example, export sheep prices over the last decade, there has effectively been a trebling of wether prices in this period."
Mr Edwards also highlighted the lost opportunity costs for exporters and producers saying at least 140,000 sheep and up to 10,000 cattle could have been exported to a range of markets.
"These lost sales opportunities for growers could not have come at a worse time of the year when feed and water availability on farm was critical and many producers would have normally sold off drafts of sheep and cattle in preparation for seeding," he said.
"Costs to some degree are incalculable but are very significant by any measure and all of industry could not have afforded this stoppage to have continued for much longer without casualties."
Wellard Rural Exports managing director Steve Meerwald said the company was yet to submit an application for ESCAS as it was waiting for final audit reports to join the submission.
He was expecting to have the audit reports this week.
Wellard is working on a shipment to the Gulf of about 100,000 sheep.
Mr Meerwald said sheep export prices had also taken a slight hit over the last few weeks, dropping about $10, because of the uncertainty about the shipping.
Despite not getting approval yet, he said he was confident it would be done.
"We know it can be done and it will be done," Mr Meerwald said.
"There are no second prizes in this.
"This is a requirement and it needs to be done.
"And when it is done it is going to be something which will be fantastic not only in terms of animal welfare but also in terms of the sustainability of exports to those markets."