ON Wednesday, June 20, I stood in Parliament and opposed the Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bill proposed by Federal Member Sussan Ley.
I stated that, if accepted, the Bill would have a highly detrimental effect on the hardworking farmers, truck drivers, stock agents and ancillary industries of O’Connor who rely heavily on the live export trade for their livelihoods.
The Bill would diminish the protection provided by the Export Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) and have a devastating outcome for animal welfare to destination countries.
Its impact could potentially raise negative trade implications with the Middle East, whose live sheep trade is much larger than Australian supply, so our animals will be substituted with those from Sub- Saharan Africa, the Black Sea and South America.
The Live Sheep Export trade is worth $250 million to the Australian economy, with more than 60 per cent of this income generated my electorate of O’Connor.
After the closure of the live export trade in 2011, prices for shipping wethers fell from the $80-100 range to $5 per head recovering to the $20-30 range in the weeks following. This of course dragged the entire sheep market down by over 50 per cent and sent many businesses to the wall.
Middle Eastern countries import around 10 million sheep per annum, of which Australia contributes between 1.6-1.8 million.
Contrary to assertions that this market is shrinking, global food company GIRA forecasts demand will increase by 2.5 per cent per annum between now and 2022.
The Saudi market accounts for around 56 per cent of the world live sheep market and sits outside the ESCAS system.
Prior to 2009, these sheep came largely from Australia however; the majority of them are currently sourced primarily from Djibouti, Somalia and Sudan.
The assumption that ceasing live export to these countries will simply drive the substitution of chilled Australian sheep meat is incorrect.
We only have to look to Bahrain to see that in 2015, when the live export market became unviable due to changes to government subsidies, Meat and Livestock Australia figures show our chilled sheep meat exports shrank from 11,987 tonnes in 2014 to 7,423 tonnes in 2017.
In May, Kuwait Livestock Transport and Trading Company Al-Mawashi, which buys most of the 1.8 million live sheep, exported from Australia, warned of wider ramifications for Australian agricultural commodities.
Its CEO Osama Boodai stated, “doubts about Australian sheep exports means Al Mawashi is already looking to find other secure sources of livestock… eyeing countries such as Somalia and Romania. This could also bring into question the significant volumes of fodder we import for feeding Australian sheep in our feedlots, as well as the chilled and frozen sheep meat we also import”.
This industry is critical to farmers Across WA and I commend the strong stand taken by the Commonwealth Government and its imposition of stricter stocking density rates, independent observers on all voyages and significantly increased financial and criminal penalties for exporters who do not comply.