Saudi sheep trade to re­sume

The West Australian - - WEST BUSINESS - Jenne Bram­mer

The mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar live sheep ex­port trade to Saudi Ara­bia is likely to re­sume by midyear, af­ter suc­cess­ful con­tin­u­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the Aus­tralian and Saudi Ara­bian gov­ern­ments.

WA in­dus­try sources said ne­go­ti­a­tions cul­mi­nated in a visit by a Saudi del­e­ga­tion this week to Aus­tralia, in­clud­ing WA.

Aus­tralia has not ex­ported sheep to Saudi Ara­bia since 2012 be­cause Saudi Ara­bia was con­cerned the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment’s Ex­porter Sup­ply Chain As­sur­ance Sys­tem re­quire­ments would im­pinge on its sovereignt­y.

How­ever, the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment and ex­porters have been work­ing with the Saudis and im­porters to re­vise the ex­ist­ing mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing on live ex­port, which would con­firm align­ment of an­i­mal wel­fare stan­dards and en­able the live ex­ports to re­sume.

Af­ter the suc­cess­ful out­come of these ne­go­ti­a­tions, it is likely a trial ship­ment from Fre­man­tle will sail by July, most likely ar­ranged by Aus­tralia’s big­gest sheep ex­porter, Emanuel Ex­ports. Emanuel Ex­ports did not re­turn calls.

The MOU, last up­dated in 2009, out­lines con­di­tions for the live trade and in­cludes as­sur­ances that live­stock will be treated in line with World Or­gan­i­sa­tion for An­i­mal Health wel­fare stan­dards, to which Saudi Ara­bia is a sig­na­tory.

In 2009, Saudi Ara­bia was Aus­tralia’s third big­gest Mid­dle East­ern mar­ket for live sheep, im­port­ing more than 576,000 head val­ued at $55 mil­lion, most supplied by WA pro­duc­ers and shipped from Fre­man­tle.

At the live sheep trade’s peak in the 1990s and early 2000s, ex­port vol­umes to Saudi Ara­bia peaked at over one mil­lion head a year. In the ab­sence of Aus­tralian live­stock, Saudi Ara­bia is im­port­ing an es­ti­mated eight mil­lion head a year from un­reg­u­lated markets like Su­dan and Eritrea.

The Aus­tralian Live­stock Ex­porters Coun­cil said Saudi Ara­bia had played a sig­nif­i­cant role in Aus­tralia’s sheep ex­port in­dus­try.

ALEC said re­open­ing the mar­ket was pri­ori­tised in a way that up­held in­ter­na­tional, Aus­tralian and Saudi an­i­mal wel­fare re­quire­ments.

Separately, WA Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Alan­nah MacTier­nan has in­structed her de­part­ment to in­ves­ti­gate an Emanuel Ex­ports voy­age last Au­gust from Fre­man­tle to the Mid­dle East, claim­ing the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment was not tak­ing its an­i­mal wel­fare se­ri­ously.

Fig­ures re­cently pub­lished by Can­berra showed a mor­tal­ity rate of 3.76 per cent on the voy­age to Kuwait, the United Arab Emi­rates and Qatar, well be­yond the re­portable mor­tal­ity level of 2 per cent.

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