WAFarmers remains hopeful that arrangements can be negotiated, and sheep and cattle will continue to be shipped from Fremantle port before the end of the year.
A viable option, could see Kuwait Livestock Transport and Trading (KLTT) the owners of the ships which have been responsible for moving 80% of WA livestock moving to a position to obtain their own export licence.
Failing these potential arrangements, we hope KLTT will charter their vessels to a company who has a valid export permit. As a key infrastructure provider we can’t afford to lose these ships from visiting Australian ports.
WAFarmers would like to see sheep, which farmers have reared specifically for the export market, continue to move as a matter of priority. By utilising KLTT as an export provider, it ensures this process occurs quickly and under industry’s best animal welfare conditions.
The industry has continued to lobby the Federal Government, the Opposition and Crossbench MPs to ensure common sense returns to the debate and the trade is not lost from Western Australia.
The future of the live sheep trade will ultimately be decided by the government and the senators who are elected at the next federal election.
In light of the trades fragile position, Farmers and aligned businesses have been working together to support the Promote Agriculture Fund, a campaign which aims to counter the extreme claims from activists and individuals on the other side of the debate.
The Promote Agriculture Fund is finalising a plan that will be implemented to help rebuild community confidence in the industry, and ensure the true facts are brought to light. It will ensure Bill Shorten’s knee-jerk position of phasing out the trade, is hopefully reconsidered if they are successful in winning the next election in 2019.
Labor and cross bench senators will be targeted with the true facts – not emotional slogans, to help them understand the reality of the live sheep trade and how economically essential the trade is for Western Australia’s agricultural economy. Western Australia is the main supplier to the export market, and the live sheep trade is crucial for farming communities around the state.
The loss of the trade will drive sheep numbers down, well below the critical 10 million mark and thereby threaten the viability of major regional employers such as the WAMMCO processing facility in Katanning.
Sheep will not; as some claim, simply be diverted to local processing facilities to be destined for the boxed meat trade. They are very different markets and factors such as domestic processing costs and sale prices do not compensate farmers for the loss of the trade. What does this mean for our sheep producers? Industry will see an increase in the number of cropping enterprises, and it will speed up the shift to self-driving large machinery. Sheep will be replaced by crops, and many workers who live off the sheep’s back, such as shearers, truck drivers and stockmen will all be hung out to dry. The loss of the industry will directly hit thousands of small businesses and people who rely on the trade for their jobs. The impacts will devastate regional WA.
Further, to our community engagement strategy we have written to the federal government seeking to gain a further explanation from the regulator as to what grounds the Emanuel and EMS export licences were cancelled.
The entire industry is calling for greater transparency, and more information must be released to determine the logic behind the permit cancellations. At this stage as far as we know, the trade has been halted due to a very unfortunate coincidence of weather related events that were no fault of the licence holder. We understand the powers of the regulator, we just don’t understand why they have made the decision they have.
The facts need to be put in front of farmers as they are currently planning their breeding programs for the coming year, it is essential we know what markets are available and what shipping services are running.
The industry as a whole remains supportive of the McCarthy summer trade guidelines as they provide assurance that the highest standards of animal welfare will be met, and upheld.
We need an opportunity to test these conditions to gauge their effectiveness, and to ensure that continuous improvements are always being made.
The regulator has pointed out the need to halt the trade over the summer months and reduce stocking densities. Greater detail and further clarity on these definitions is required to help shippers improve their operations. Industry is willing to work co-operatively with the regulator to achieve an outcome that ensures the trade is viable throughout the supply chain but will not compromise Australia’s high animal welfare standards.
We know from 50 years of live sheep exports, that it is safe to trade from November through to the end of April. We also know that KLTT has made a significant investment in fleet design, with a new state-of-the-art livestock vessel due to join the fleet in early 2019.
There are now modified shipping routes, improved ventilation systems, lower stocking densities, real-time reporting and increased penalties to shipments that do not comply with the new regulations.
These improved measures have been set to increase compliance and ensure the world’s most regulated live sheep trade is safe to continue. Farmers and the broader community can have faith in the trade and know that Australia will continue to lead international standards well into the future.
We should be proud, that Australia plays an important role in encouraging livestock importing nations to follow Australia’s world-class example when it comes to world’s best practice in animal welfare.
Collectively, these measures will improve the social licence of this legitimate trade; that is critical to all Western Australian sheep producers.