A “perfect economic storm is brewing” for Western Australian livestock producers following the licence suspension of Australia’s largest sheep exporter Emanuel Exports in June, according to the Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA (PGA).
PGA president Tony Seabrook said the “removal of Australia’s largest exporter of sheep from the summer trade, and the current lack of clarity over the export process following the rejection of an export permit for 60,000 sheep left stranded in WA following the suspension of Emanuel Exports, is creating a level of economic uncertainty for livestock producers throughout the State”.
“Already we have seen two exporters, Livestock Shipping Services and Harmony Agriculture and Food subsidiary Phoenix Exports, cancel their consignments to the Middle East and stop buying sheep, resulting in hundreds of thousands of sheep that are normally exported remaining on-farm,” Mr Seabrook said.
“If this trend continues, WA sheep farmers could be faced with a perfect storm of no buyers for their sheep over spring and into summer, resulting in an oversupply, a drop in prices, and overstocking of pastures.
“Despite assurances from animal rights activists that these sheep can be easily processed onshore and then exported to the Middle East, the reality is that the export of livestock is not easily interchangeable with the export of chilled or frozen sheep meat.
“This limits the marketability of over 1.5 million WA sheep, and impacts on the livelihoods of the thousands of livestock producers who rely on this essential trade”.
Mr Seabrook said WA’s rural and regional sector couldn’t afford to have “the clouds of bureaucratic unpredictability continue to hang over the granting of export permits”.
Agricultural Region MLC Rick Mazza of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party has also warned about the wider ramifications of shutting down the live sheep export.
“People need to understand that if the live sheep trade is shut down the impact on communities will be devastating and long lasting, and not just for farmers,” Mr Mazza said.
“The disruption to live export trade will cause a domino effect throughout the whole supply chain, including but not limited to livestock truck drivers, buyers, agents, feed manufacturers and other product and service providers within those communities.
“People within rural communities rely on the export trade for their livelihoods.
“If they cannot afford to pay their bills, they cannot run the lights in their homes or keep their children in boarding school.”
Mr Mazza said the economic and social consequences of the 2011 live export industry shutdown were dire and there “were serious ramifications here”.
“Any decisions made must consider such impacts,” Mr Mazza said.
“Closures, bankruptcies, job losses, where will this stop?”
Mr Mazza agreed with the sentiment of Federal Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce, who said at the Katanning live export forum two weeks ago, that the next focus for animal activists would be the live cattle trade, and after that they would pursue another industry that they had an issue with.
Mr Mazza said the live sheep export trade in the Middle East was much larger than Australian supply.
“Those sheep could easily be replaced with animals from other countries such as sub-Saharan Africa, the Black Sea and South America,” Mr Mazza said.
“We need to stand strong with the industry and everybody who contributes to it.”
Meanwhile the PGA has also slammed the Australian Capital Territory Union’s (ACTU) decision to support a live export ban.
The ACTU has unanimously supported a motion moved by the Australasian Meat Industry Employees’ Union to end live exports, which the PGA warns would see unions cripple WA’s regional industries and supply chains.
“The ACTU’s claims that over 3000 regional jobs will be created in abattoirs if the live export trade was phased out is yet another fallacy from the unions who are trying to seek relevance in regional Western Australia,” Mr Seabrook said.
“The live sheep export industry employs thousands of regional workers throughout the supply chain – from farmers and stockmen and women, to dock workers and ships’ crews.
“It underpins thousands of small businesses.
“Ending the industry will see unemployment levels rise to critical levels, and will bring enormous damage to many regional communities across WA.”
Australia has been the world leader in animal welfare for the export of all animals for domestic and international slaughter, and is the only country that regulates specific animal welfare outcomes throughout the supply chain, both at home and in other countries.
“Banning live exports will only result in many thousands more animals being subjected to cruel treatment by other exporting nations that have little regard for animal welfare during export, including not having regulations that ensure adequate ventilations, humane stocking levels and the provision of adequate food and water on long haul voyages,” Mr Seabrook.
“The ACTU is once again showing the willingness of the union movement to turn livestock exports into a political issue to shore up inner-city votes, and their disdain for the hard working farming families and regional workers of Western Australia whose livelihoods depend on it.”