Livestock export review wants enforceable standards

Federal Government urged to accelerate work with the states and territories to regulate the livestock export trade

By Ruza Zivkusic | October 25, 2011

The Federal Government is being urged to accelerate work with the states and territories to regulate the livestock export trade.

The Independent Review of Australia’s Livestock Export Trade says the government needs to implement enforceable welfare standards to replace codes of practice.

It wants the standards incorporated into legislation and compliance programs introduced to monitor and enforce the regulations in the domestic phase of the livestock export trade.

The review, which was commissioned by the Federal Government, has found the suspension of export trade was central to the government’s consideration of livestock export trade issues.

Some 3.8 million feeder or slaughter cattle, sheep and goats were exported last year at a value of $863 million, which accounted for 2.7 percent of the country’s agricultural exports last year.

"Cattle, sheep and goat welfare standards should be produced as a priority for incorporation into state and territory legislation," the review says.

It also recommends a review of Fremantle’s inspection regime of livestock prior to export.

"Despite the general improvement in animal handling and transport and better understanding of welfare issues, there are some residual problems including on-farm preparation of both sheep and cattle and loading of higher-risk livestock for transport to feedlots," it says.

"There is evidence of numbers of out-of-specifications sheep being delivered to Fremantle wharf for loading onto ships."

The West Australian Government says it is keen to work with the livestock industry to implement improvements.

Agriculture Minister Terry Redman is currently considering the 14 recommendations from the review, the government’s response to those recommendations as well as reports from the cattle and sheep industry working groups.

"The State Government firmly supports the live export industry, which supports a major economic contribution to the WA agrifood sector and rural communities," Redman says.

"This government and the WA industry has taken a lead role to gain the resumption of the live cattle trade with Indonesia and had key input into the new standards for cattle."

Recently returning from his trip in Indonesia, Redman says he is encouraged by the development in the implementation of improved animal welfare and auditing processes.

The new standards for cattle to Indonesia have been the model for the development of a new supply chain assurance framework for Australian live exports.

The Federal Government has indicated the framework will be implemented in stages with 75 percent of trade covered by February and for all trade by the end of next year.

West Australian cattle exports were valued at $244 million in the last year, accounting for about 40 percent of the nation’s live cattle trade.

Sheep exports during the same period reached $263 million, accounting for three quarters of the nation’s sheep exports.

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