Farm­ers fear fi­nan­cial pain over live ex­ports

The West Australian - - NEWS - Jenne Bram­mer

‘We have done noth­ing wrong but will wear the cost.’ Farmer Max Watts

Wan­der­ing farmer Max Watts has ap­plauded the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment’s new stan­dards for ex­port­ing sheep, in­clud­ing re­duced den­si­ties, but is ner­vous about WA Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Alan­nah MacTier­nan’s mis­sion to pause ship­ments dur­ing the north­ern sum­mer months.

Mr Watts said a pause dur­ing the north­ern sum­mer would have wide-reach­ing and longer-term im­pli­ca­tions than just dur­ing that pe­riod, pri­mar­ily be­cause cus­tomers would go else­where for sup­ply.

Mr Watts, who ex­pects to sell about 2000 sheep for live ex­port this year, said the de­ba­cle had al­ready caused prices to fall about 10 per cent to 20 per cent, and the losses could get big­ger if a sum­mer ban was put in place.

“I was hor­ri­fied to see the footage, my­self and other farm­ers are very frus­trated,” he said. “Pro­duc­ers do their best to look af­ter their an­i­mals and en­sure good wel­fare stan­dards on the farm.

“We have done noth­ing wrong but will wear the cost.”

Ms MacTier­nan has ar­gued the Fed­eral mea­sures, though an im­prove­ment, do not go far enough in ad­dress­ing an­i­mal wel­fare and restor­ing pub­lic con­fi­dence in the in­dus­try.

The min­is­ter ex­pects to have ad­vice by the end of next week on whether she has the power to im­pose a ban on sheep ships leav­ing WA dur­ing the north­ern sum­mer months.

Although re­duced stock­ing den­si­ties would af­fect prices paid to farm­ers, Mr Watts said it was es­sen­tial an­i­mal wel­fare stan­dards aboard ships were im­proved.

“Wool prices are at record lev­els, which is help­ful and pro­vides a buf­fer,” he said.

“But the dry sea­son means farm­ers are hav­ing to hand­feed sheep at great ex­pense.”

Mitchell Hunter, who farms at Bruce Rock with his fa­ther Greg, said the fam­ily were ready to sell about 300 sheep a few weeks ago but would have lost thou­sands of dol­lars from their value be­cause of the tum­bling prices as a re­sult of the re­cently re­duced stock­ing den­si­ties.

He said the fam­ily had de­cided to keep and fat­ten the sheep to make them suit­able for the do­mes­tic pro­cess­ing mar­ket, which was costly be­cause of the need to hand-feed them.

Picture: Steve Fer­rier

Wan­der­ing farmer Max Watts says an ex­port pause dur­ing the north­ern sum­mer will have wide-reach­ing ef­fects.

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