NEW Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt can expect an invitation to visit Western Australia in the near future, including an inspection of live export port facilities.
The Livestock Collective plans to extend the invite, so Mr Watt can see first-hand exactly what the trade means to WA.
It comes after Mr Watt confirmed he would oversee the roll-out of Labor's policy to phase-out live sheep exports.
Last Friday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told ABC radio the ban on live sheep exports would not occur in the next three years.
Mr Albanese confirmed his party would follow through on its pre-election commitment to ban the trade that has been criticised by animal welfare groups, but generates thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in export revenue.
"No one's envisaging a phase-out in this term of government," Mr Albanese conceded.
"We'll sit down and we'll work through these issues co-operatively and respectfully."
Mr Albanese said his government respected farmers while also wanting to make sure animal welfare issues were looked after.
"We haven't put a timeframe on that because we want to make sure that we consult with farmers ... and work it through in a co-operative way to make sure we get a win-win situation," he said.
The Prime Minister said the government was committed to the northern summer export ban which was already in place.
He said the live cattle trade would not be included in the government's deliberations.
The Livestock Collective director and Corrigin Merino stud breeder Steve Bolt labelled Mr Watt's support of the phase-out as "very disappointing", particularly given the industry had adhered to and delivered all of the trade requirements put in place by the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water.
"Industry has delivered on all of those new regulations and we have been able to safely transport sheep to our Middle East customers with outstanding results," Mr Bolt said.
"From my position - as The Livestock Collective director - we will invite Mr Watt, as well as other ministers and the media, on a feedlot and vessel tour once shipping starts in September.
"This will give them a real understanding from growers about how important the trade is to their business and WA's regions."
The tour would provide insight into the feed and water systems and ventilation and penning densities onboard livestock export ships.
It would also be an opportunity for Mr Watt to visit sheep farms in southern WA.
Mr Bolt said industry was more than happy to stand by the results it had produced over the past four years.
And he was confident in its future and ability to grow numbers - from 600,000-head to one million head -of sheep exported out of WA annually.
"Mr Watt says the phase-out is the right thing to do, but his comments aren't justified and not backed by facts or science," he said.
"We will talk to him about what the facts show, what science has shown and what the performance of industry has been.
"We value the product we deliver to our customers.
"They are long-term trading partners and we look to continue that well into the future, so for us the industry is absolutely sustainable.
"But we need government support and undertaking to be able to continue delivering on that."
Mr Bolt feared - without the live export trade - WA growers would decide to reduce sheep numbers.
He said the market had given growers a safety valve, in shifting large numbers of livestock in a short period of time.
This had proved particularly important during drought or times when seasonal conditions had turned for the worse.
"There has always been that safety net for growers," Mr Bolt said.
"Growers won't run the risk of carrying larger numbers, which they can't handle or adequately look after onfarm."
In response to comments on live export numbers declining, Mr Bolt said this was relative to the cycle of the sheep flock.
He said large numbers of breeding stock leaving WA due to dry seasonal conditions and restocking in the Eastern States had an impact.
Mr Bolt said figures over the past four years, showed a similar decline right across the board from domestic lamb and mutton through to the live export and domestic processing of cattle.
"Information has been cherry picked to say numbers are declining," he said.
"But figures show a rebuild in sheep flocks and cattle herds is why those numbers haven't been processed.
"And to expect the domestic slaughter supply chain to handle an extra 600,000-head of sheep when they are already under pressure?
"There are quotes of more than eight weeks full capacity worth of work for abattoirs to process those numbers."
Speaking to Farm Weekly at a farm near New Norcia last Friday, WA Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan suggested a review was needed following the new Federal Labor government's confirmation of its plans to phase out live export.
"I've reached out to Murray Watt (the new Federal Agriculture minister) to come over here, to talk to industry and work out a reasonable path forward," Ms MacTiernan said.
"I think one way to deal with this is to have a review to look at what really is happening now with the regime that has been put in place and work through, in a calm, rational way, what the options are."
"There is a variety of views within the farming community, even within sheep farmers, and we see very wise articles published by some farmers looking at a future that involves a more downstream processing quality product and more reputational protection," the minister said.
"So you have to look at these systems as a whole and if we have a review where we look at all of those factors and how they interlink, we might get a more considered response."
However, the State opposition criticised Mr Albanese and Mr Watt after they confirmed they would go ahead with their plan to ban live export of sheep.
The Nationals WA Agriculture and Food spokesperson Colin De Grussa said statements by the new government had done nothing to settle the fears of thousands of Western Australians who relied on live export for their livelihood.
Mr de Grussa said he had written to Mr Albanese imploring him to reverse the decision.
"It is vitally important he also details how he intends to stop this unscientific and economically- nave policy from damaging local economies and local communities," Mr de Grussa said.
"The Prime Minister's confirmation that live export will end has sent a message to Australia's customers to begin the search for a new supplier, sending investment dollars and opportunity offshore.
"It's up to him to explain how closing the trade will improve animal welfare outcomes without forcing WA farmers, shearers, truck drivers, wharfies, communities, and families to carry the cost."
During the Federal Election, WA Premier Mark McGowan said appropriate safeguards were in place to keep the trade operating, including the suspension of exports over the northern summer, extra vet checks and monitoring on ships.
Australia exports about two million live sheep each year, with the major destinations being Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Jordan, Israel and Malaysia.
The Greens went to the election calling for an immediate ban on the trade, arguing sheep routinely die horrific deaths and suffer immense heat stress.
Federal Liberal MP for O'Connor and the party's assistant trade spokesperson, Rick Wilson, said the live export industry was complimentary to WA's Middle Eastern trading partners imports of chilled meat, grain and other commodities.
"It's very simplistic to say we can just end the live export trade and that our trading partners will continue to buy other chilled products off us, because that is not necessarily the case - it would appear live exports and chilled products very much go hand in hand," Mr Wilson said.
He said there were major improvements to Australia's animal welfare standards since the Awassi Express incident where sheep died from heat stress in August 2017.
"By continuing to export our sheep into the Middle East, we have raised the standard of animal welfare for the millions of sheep which arrive from all over North Africa and the Black Sea region and, for that improvement in animal welfare outcomes, I think Australians can be very proud," Mr Wilson said.
Mr Wilson said the result of the Labor Party confirming it would be phasing out the industry by some indeterminate time in the future, would be that WA sheep producers would stop investing and withdraw from the industry.
"If the live exporters aren't in the market place every week purchasing stock, then that reduces the amount of competition on all sheep and that will lead to lower returns for producers, no question about it," he said.
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