Challenges for live export hopefuls
For the live export trade to remain a viable and significant part of WA agriculture it has many more challenges than the biggest shipper Emanuel Exports losing its licence last week.
WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan told Parliament last week that Emanuel Exports and its related companies accounted for 71 per cent of WA live sheep exports in 2016 and 74 per cent in 2017.
Shippers hoping to fill the void left by Emanuel will need more than financial strength, technical capability, access to carriers and marketing contacts. They will need confidence to move forward despite division among key govern- ment players, uncertainty about stocking densities, possible legal challenges and the increasing likelihood of a Federal Labor government that will phase out live exports.
Last week, Ms MacTiernan called on the Federal Government to financially support WA sheep farmers and processors adjust to the changes in the trade.
“The actions of the Federal Government over the past six months have led to a halt in live exports and an inevitable reduction in the trade,” she said.
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said he shared WA farmers’ frustration that an exporter had behaved in a way that caused them to lose their licence.
He said he had kept the live export trade open despite enormous pressure to close it.
“Exporters are currently making moves to send sheep ships, so the market is working, and exporters think it is viable,” Mr Littleproud said.
“So it’s difficult to see why Minister MacTiernan would call for compensation.”
The Liberal Party chaos in Canberra last week is mixed news for WA sheep growers wanting to see the live export trade continue.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has promoted Liberal NSW backbencher Sussan Ley, who in May introduced a private members Bill to restrict the live export trade, to Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories.
As a member of the ministry, Ms Ley may be unable to continue to push her Bill.
The leadership change also saw support for the coalition plummet.
Newspoll on Monday showed coalition support on a two-party preferred basis drop from 49 per cent to 44 per cent, making a Federal Labor government with a policy to phase out the live export trade more likely.
Before the election, which could be as late as May next year, exporters wanting to restart the trade have other uncertainties to ponder.
The much talked about threat to exporters of injunctions from animal activists remains but under revised regulations can now occur well before the ship is loaded, reducing the risk to the shipper.
Animals Australia director Lyn White said the animal welfare group’s legal team would decide on a case-by-case basis whether to challenge the lawfulness of any approval of a live export shipment.
She said the next month was high risk in terms of heat stress “which is why the Australian Veterinary Association took the position that shipments should not leave during this period”.
There has been no decision on the stocking densities that would apply to ships leaving after October 31 when the restrictions for the northern summer end.
A Federal Department of Agriculture spokesman said it was considering stocking densities on voyages after October 31 and would notify stakeholders well in advance.