Live ex­port con­tro­versy talk of town

Central and North Burnett Times - - NEWS - Rhiannon Tuffield and Tobi Lof­tus

ALL eyes were on the Aus­tralian cat­tle in­dus­try last month, af­ter footage emerged of an­other live ex­port ex­posé in­volv­ing the abuse of cows in Viet­nam.

Since then, live ex­ports to three abat­toirs in Viet­nam have been sus­pended, five years af­ter the then-La­bor Gov­ern­ment block of ex­ports to In­done­sia.

De­spite con­tin­ued pub­lic out­cry, gov­ern­ment and in­dus­try both in­sist the ex­port of Aus­tralian cat­tle pro­vides an im­por­tant gate­way for the se­cu­rity of the Aus­tralian econ­omy.

Beef pro­ducer An­thony Coates, from Eidsvold Sta­tion, said the 2011 ban re­sulted in his cat­tle, which are mainly part of the do­mes­tic mar­ket, be­ing sold be­low cost.

“If they close that north­ern mar­ket, where live ex­port is cen­tred, it re­ally puts more pres­sure on the lo­cal mar­ket and it takes com­pe­ti­tion out of it.. as they have to ship their cat­tle south,” Mr Coates said.

“There was just a block­age in the sup­ply chain as it was over­crowed and that cause se­vere de­pres­sion.

“We weren’t get­ting the re­turns we oth­er­wise would have got.”

In 2012, live an­i­mal ex­ports were val­ued at A$891.7 mil­lion with the 540,209 beef cat­tle ex­ported con­tribut­ing A$428.8 mil­lion.

The trade em­ploys around 13,000 peo­ple across ru­ral and re­gional Aus­tralia and con­trib­utes $1.8 bil­lion to the econ­omy.

Cat­tle Coun­cil of Aus­tralia pres­i­dent Howard Smith said al­though mis­treat­ment of Aus­tralian an­i­mals over­seas was of con­cern, the in­dus­try was com­mit­ted to im­prov­ing the wel­fare of the an­i­mals.

“It’s some­thing we’re con­stantly try­ing to im­prove all the time in these coun­tries, to raise the wel­fare stan­dards,” he said.

“It is to­tally un­ac­cept­able for our an­i­mals to be treated in­hu­manely.”

Al­though Mr Smith said only 8% of Aus­tralian cat­tle, pri­mar­ily from North­ern Queens­land, were ex­ported each year, there would be a loss if the mar­ket ceased.

“It’s ob­vi­ously ex­tremely im­por­tant in the fact that it gives us di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion in our mar­kets,” he said.

“A lot of the time it com­ple­ments our pro­duc­tion sec­tors, and we’ve got an abil­ity to put cat­tle into other mar­kets that we wouldn’t have ac­cess to in boxed beef.

“In the north, where there are lim­ited op­tions as far as pro­cess­ing on top of drought, they’ve got the abil­ity to com­pete in the beef busi­ness by sell­ing into the live mar­ket.”

Al­though the is­sue of a ban on live ex­port was more sig­nif­i­cant for pro­duc­ers up north, the im­pact has an abil­ity to leak down to the South Burnett.

Pratt Agen­cies owner Paul Pratt said north­ern beef pro­duc­ers’ ac­cess to an in­ter­na­tional mar­ket was ben­e­fi­cial to lo­cal in­dus­try.

“The num­bers of cat­tle in Aus­tralia in re­cent years has been too high for our pro­ces­sors, and the live ex­port is an av­enue to get rid of some num­bers and it’s made a dif­fer­ence to the mar­ket and prices,” Mr Pratt said.

“If there was a ban the national herd would grow and they wouldn’t have to pay the sort of money they’re pay­ing now for cat­tle, which will have an ef­fect on a lot of our lo­cal guys.”

Aus­tralian an­i­mal wel­fare or­gan­i­sa­tion RSPCA stands firm in its op­po­si­tion to live ex­port.

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