Countryman - - FRONT PAGE - Zach Relph

Farm­ers look to the fu­ture as live ex­port con­tin­ues

A sense of un­ease cov­ers WA’s live sheep in­dus­try lead­ing into next year’s three-month north­ern sum­mer stall, with pro­duc­ers declar­ing the ban un­der­pins short-term plan­ning but does not se­cure the trade’s long-term fu­ture.

Ex­porters re­vealed ear­lier this month a ban on live sheep ship­ments to the Mid­dle East would be im­posed from June 1, 2019, to re­duce the like­li­hood of an­i­mal fa­tal­i­ties on heat-rid­dled voy­ages.

The de­ci­sion, ex­pected to rip $55 mil­lion an­nu­ally from the na­tion’s live sheep in­dus­try, will be im­ple­mented un­der Aus­tralian Live­stock Ex­porters Coun­cil’s new manda­tory code of con­duct.

Long-time pro­ducer Alex Cant runs be­tween 7000 to 8000 wethers at his Broome­hill prop­erty, with up to 2000 of the flock’s older sheep sold into the live ex­port mar­ket each year.

Fol­low­ing the north­ern sum­mer mora­to­rium an­nounce­ment, Mr Cant said he and wife Judy had opted to de­lay sell­ing their wethers to ex­porters un­til 2020 after the land­mark three­month ban ended. “We will wait un­til Jan­uary or Fe­bru­ary, in 2020, when the sum­mer ban is fin­ished to sell,” Mr Cant, a vet­eran Great South­ern farmer of more than 50 years, told Coun­try­man.

“The ban is pretty se­ri­ous, es­pe­cially from a WA per­spec­tive.

“The pro­ducer that can’t pro­duce a prime an­i­mal from July to Oc­to­ber are the ones who are go­ing to take a knock.”

Cruel vi­sion from Emanuel Ex­ports’ now-in­fa­mous Awassi Ex­press voy­age, re­leased in April, threw WA’s live sheep trade into tur­moil amid an­i­mal ac­tivists’ pleas to dock all sheep ves­sels des­tined for the Mid­dle East.

Since then, Fed­eral La­bor has re­mained staunch be­hind threats to phase out the in­dus­try within five years, if suc­cess­ful in top­pling the Mor­ri­son Gov­ern­ment at next year’s elec­tion.

Ko­jonup farmer Grantly Mari­noni — who has a mixed sheep-crop­ping op­er­a­tion — said he was con­cerned the three-month ban was a tem­po­rary so­lu­tion.

Mr Mari­noni said he feared the mora­to­rium would force Mid­dle Eastern con­sumers to source Merino wethers from coun­tries with lesser an­i­mal wel­fare stan­dards than Aus­tralia.

“The north­ern sum­mer ban is al­most a band-aid fix,” he said.

“If the Mid­dle East still re­quire sheep at that time of the year, they’ll get them from some­where else in­stead of our back­yard.

“It is a very po­lit­i­cal is­sue, but the mea­sures are in place to en­sure safe voy­ages and they need to be ad­hered to.”

Brook­ton sheep-grain farmer Mur­ray Hall hosted Fed­eral Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter David Lit­tleproud at his Wheat­belt prop­erty last month dur­ing the Na­tion­als mem­ber’s whirl­wind WA visit.

Mr Hall said the agri­cul­tural in­dus­try’s de­lay in en­forc­ing swift ac­tion after the Awassi Ex­press footage was re­leased had a fur­ther im­pact on live ex­port’s so­cial li­cence.

How­ever, he said the voy­age em­bargo demon­strated the want to keep the trade alive de­spite Fed­eral La­bor’s in­ten­tion to end it.

“I be­lieve that the live ex­port in­dus­try has been too slow to move,” he said.

“Com­plete and open trans­parency is needed from now on.

“We can’t have this trade con­tinue as it has done, but we can’t turn it off with­out con­se­quences.

“What I really fear is illinformed Eastern States cross­benchers and politi­cians from both sides mak­ing de­ci­sions when they haven’t in­ves­ti­gated the down­stream con­se­quences, in­clud­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts and pres­sure on the flock in a de-stocked sit­u­a­tion, and what it means for WA.”

Ko­jonup sheep farmer Alex Cant will de­lay sales to ex­porters.

Farmer Grantly Mari­noni.

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