WA agricultural industry bodies are banding together for the common good of the whole sector – to defend and preserve the livelihoods of all producers and associated agri-businesses.
Representatives from the Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA, WAFarmers, Livestock and Rural Transport Association of WA (LRTAWA), Stud Merino Breeders’ Association of WA, Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen’s Association, WA Pork Producers Association and veterinarian Rob McPherson met recently and agreed to further collaborate to positively promote and future-proof the agricultural sector in WA.
While they acknowledged the many challenges facing WA primary producers and associated industries, they agreed to a collaborative approach in addressing these issues.
Meeting chairman and LRTAWA live export committee chairman Andy Jacob said that it was great to see the industry united and he was looking forward to further discussions on how best to promote WA’s regional and rural industries.
“This was a very positive meeting which identified several key issues facing rural producers and associated industries, including the elephant in the room, live sheep exports,” Mr Jacob said.
“We have all agreed on the fundamental importance of collaborating to respond to emerging issues of the day but to also enhance the reputation of and protect the long-term interests of our respective industries and the WA rural sector.”
Mr Jacob said there was growing support from within the sector for a collaborative approach to resolving the issues.
“I think that is what people want to see happen,” he said.
The meeting was held in the wake of growing concern about the fall-out of live export issues facing WA and the announcements that people were losing jobs across the live export supply chain.
Mr Jacob said WA livestock transporters were travelling blind, hoping that a unified approach to live export issues could see a positive solution for the long-term sustainability of the industry.
Since Livestock Shipping Services (LSS) pulled out of WA in June to focus its business in South America, where regulations are not so rigid, some local livestock transport businesses came to a grinding halt.
That was compounded when the largest exporter Emanuel Exports had its licence temporarily suspended.
Mr Jacob said as soon as LSS made the decision to cease trading from WA during the northern summer months, some trucks that would usually be on the road were parked up, with operators looking for other work.
“It all happened pretty quickly – within a few days,” Mr Jacob said.
“The decision by LSS was more like a tek screw rather than a nail in the coffin to the industry, but I can certainly understand their decision.
“It shows they don’t have confidence in WA and no confidence in the ag minister.
“It put the writing on the wall very quickly.”
Mr Jacob said trading stopped there and then.
“Owners can’t afford to leave their trucks sitting, so there has been a focus on other ways to generate income and that can be very difficult when you have specialised equipment,” he said.
Mr Jacob said orders for new stock crates had been cancelled, but there were also dozens of existing crates sitting idle collecting rust.
“The situation is a lot more dire than what people think,” he said
Mr Jacob said the majority of LRTAWA members had from 34 per cent to 85pc of their businesses reliant on the live export trade.
“If the live export industry was banned it would be possible to see a drop in livestock movements by as much as 48pc throughout the State, which would see some businesses go to the wall financially,” he said.
“WA is an exporter and not a domestic consumer, we need this trade to stay financially viable.
“That reality is there – there is no confidence and security all through the supply chain.
“Trucks are only one link in that chain, there are many others that are feeling the pinch also – feedlots, shearers, stockmen, feed mills and stevedores are all going to be impacted.
“It’s the knock-on effect that hurts the most.”
Mr Jacob said “activist groups wanted to see an end to the trade and were not interested or accountable for the fall out of their actions”.
He said the issue was throwing up more questions than answers and the future of the industry would be very much determined by the decisions of others with no vested interest in the industry.
“I’ve been asked many times what’s going to happen – I don’t have a crystal ball and I don’t know,” he said.
“A phase-out of the industry is just not an option because all you are doing is prolonging the pain.
“We are going to sit tight and hope that common sense prevails.”
Mr Jacob said the national average age of a truck driver was about 48-years-old, which was going up by one year, each year.
He said it had been a struggle to attract young people to the industry and even harder lately with the uncertainty surrounding it.
“There’s a massive capital outlay to get into this industry and zero certainty once you are there,” Mr Jacob said.
“So I can understand why people are not interested.”
Mr Jacob was one of five WA live export stakeholders who were approached to participate in the National Federated Farmers, Sheep Producers Australia and WAFarmers initiative – liveexportfacts.com – which offers short video presentations on how important live export is to their industries, communities and families.
Other participants were Bindi Murray, Woodanilling, Dawson Bradford, Narrogin, Clayton South, Wagin and Katanning shire president Liz Guidera.
The website covers why Australia is involved in the live export trade and how the industry has improved over the past 100 years, as well as the benefits of the trade to the Australian economy and in particular the WA community.