By Bridget Fitzgerald
Published on 5 May 2017, on abc.net.au
A report has found that strict industry regulations put in place to protect animal welfare reduce the competitiveness of Australian livestock exporters.
The Australian Farm Institute report, Enhancing the Competitiveness of the Australian Livestock Export, was commissioned by the Australian Livestock Export Corporation and Meat and Livestock Australia.
It found some aspects of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System, which regulates animal welfare and traceability within the live export trade, were too cumbersome.
Australian Farm Institute executive director Mick Keogh said sheep exported from North African and Eastern European countries were less expensive because they were not subject to such rigorous welfare standards.
“The absence of some of the strict regulations that apply to Australian livestock mean that livestock [from these countries] are less expensive and less cumbersome,” Mr Keogh said.
“Now, it’s probably argued that the quality and consistency of livestock from those sources isn’t up to Australian standards yet,” he said.
Mr Keogh said the report did not suggest that regulations should be eased.
But he said industry could only remain competitive in the global export market if the cost of the regulatory burden was reduced.
Local processing could not replace exports
The report found that the live export trade was worth more than $2 billion in revenue and shutting down the industry would cost livestock farmers in excess of $300 million.
By contrast, if cattle currently bound for the livestock export market was redirected into local processing, the report estimated it would only generate $100 million.
Mr Keogh said animals directed for livestock export would be too small and not able to access processing facilities.
He said the cost involved to meet that shortfall would be too great.
RSPCA rejects report findings
In a written statement to ABC Rural, RSPCA senior policy officer Dr Jed Goodfellow disputed the Australian Farm Institute assertion that local processing could not replace exports.
Dr Goodfellow said the Australian economy and jobs would be better served in the long term from an ordered transition away from live exports, towards chilled and frozen meat exports.
Further, Dr Goodfellow said it was wrong to suggest welfare regulations hindered competitiveness.
He said the live export industry needed to acknowledge that without the minimal Australian welfare standards, there would not be an industry at all.