PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has fallen to public pressure to halt all live cattle exports to Indonesia and is copping backlash from industry and the Federal Opposition for being ‘drastic’.
Port authority yesterday stopped around 2000 cattle being loaded on a ship in Western Australia on Federal Government orders, with agriculture minister Joe Ludwig expected to make a statement later today.
If the move extends as expected to other states, Queensland’s largest live cattle exporter Australian Agriculture Company (AACo) will face serious challenges.
The ASX-listed company overhauled its corporate strategy last year with the appointment of CEO David Farley, who dramatically shifted the focus away from processing to live cattle trading.
“A key strategic initiative for the company has been live cattle exports. Live cattle revenue more than doubled during the year, with exports to many key Asian markets increasing significantly,” said Farley in his last annual report.
Shadow minister John Cobb condemned the decision this morning by stating the move sends the wrong message to facilities that have committed to international best practice standards.
“In Indonesia we are told there are 25 abattoirs – A and B grade facilities – that comply with internationally agreed standards. Restricting trade to these facilities would have created market pressure for others to lift their game,” says Cobb’s joint media statement with Nationals leader Warren Truss.
“Unless the government moves very quickly to accredit Indonesia’s best practice abattoirs, today’s ban will just see Indonesia import live cattle from elsewhere and animal welfare standards will not be improved.
“The announcement will cause an immediate drop in the cattle market across Australia and devalue existing meat in stores. There is now no market for many of northern Australia’s cattle.”
Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) chairman Don Heatley was also quick to offer an alternative solution, believing industry ‘will not tolerate cruelty to their animals’.
Under the MLA system, only Indonesia’s top 25 abattoirs would receive Australian cattle and an Australian animal welfare office would be stationed at the facilities to oversee operations.
“This step will ensure that only the best 25 facilities receive our cattle. These facilities currently account for around 40% of Australian cattle sent to Indonesia,” says Heatley.
“The Australian industry is also committed to introducing improved infrastructure in these facilities and transitioning as many as possible to stunning. Facilities in the remaining categories will not receive Australian cattle until they can be guaranteed to meet accepted standards.
“This issue has made it clear that we must only allow our cattle to reach those facilities where we can be absolutely confident they will be handled in line with internationally accepted welfare practices.”
Get your copy of Brisbane Business News June edition to read how Queensland’s largest beef producers, including AACo, Teys Bros and Australian Country Choice are being affected by the live export issue.
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