Wayne Pech, Gnowangerup, says it's time for alternatives to live export

By Brooke Littlewood
May 11 2022 - 10:00pm
Gnowangerup sheep farmer Wayne Pech.

GNOWANGERUP sheep farmer Wayne Pech is advocating for an orderly transition out of live export - not an immediate ban.

Mr Pech owns a mixed cropping and sheep farming business, North Stirling Downs, in the Great Southern region.

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As part of this he runs anywhere up to 30,000-head of self-replacing sheep across 13,500 hectares.

In response to Labor's announcement to phase out live sheep exports, Mr Pech said a forward-thinking government and livestock industry could explore other market options in Australia and overseas.

And he said sheep farmers could find a way to produce an animal, which could be sold into those different markets.

Using his own farm as an example, Mr Pech puts more weight on his sheep sooner - so they can be sold sooner - and aren't reliant on live trade.

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He said while there's no guarantee sheep he breeds weren't onsold to live export, he would not feel uncomfortable should a transition out of the trade be implemented by industry and government.

"Other market options I speak of may not have been developed yet and that's where the government needs to help," Mr Pech said.

"They could provide assistance in finding labour for existing abattoirs, sourcing other markets and helping new processors enter the market.

"I really think for producers and advocacy groups to say that 'we need live export and nobody is going to take it away from us' is short-sighted.

"There are overseas companies that have a reasonably fluid asset - they could move their ships into other areas of the world and stop carting from WA.

"I believe it is important to plan ahead and think about other options should live export be ended."

Mr Pech said WA was stuck in too much of an "export-raw product" mentality when it came to sheep, grain and minerals, with COVID only emphasising this.

He said the agricultural industry should instead shift focus on value-adding in Australia.

And that a correct transition from any of this would have economic, ethical and environmental benefits.

Substitute the words "live export" for grain or minerals and Mr Pech said he would tell you "exactly the same thing".

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When asked to expand on the benefits a correct transition would have he said, "people have quoted that there would be 3000 jobs lost if we lose live export".

"However, if the government helped find other markets and created greater incentives to source labour then perhaps existing abattoirs could operate 24/7," he said.

"I believe the number of jobs created and the financial benefit would exceed the losses in the live export industry."

Mr Pech expressed disappointment in the tone of this year's election debate and that's not only in live export.

He said the intensity on both sides of the argument was discouraging the industry from looking at alternative options.

"This is not the most important issue affecting livestock producers, but it does seem to be the one that gets them most worked up," Mr Pech said.

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"I believe manmade climate change and the lack of sheep numbers in WA industry is more concerning for the economy's scale."

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