Live ex trade to Egypt reopens

20 Mar, 2014 08:00 AM
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6
 
Our regard for welfare… puts Australian exporters at a competitive disadvantage

UPDATED 11am: LIVESTOCK exports from Australia to Egypt will resume under the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS), with industry also agreeing to lift its voluntary suspension on the trade with Egypt. The announcement follows the recent reopening of the Bahrain live export market.

While the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council (ALEC) welcomed news that the Egyptian government would abide by ESCAS regulations, ALEC chief executive Alison Penfold warned markets may have already been lost to other exporters.

Sheep have not been exported to Egypt since 2006, while cattle have not been exported there since 2013.

Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce confirmed the new arrangements for the resumption of the live export trade in a statement this morning. As a result of the announcement, ALEC agreed to lift the industry suspension.

“I am pleased to announce that the Australian and Egyptian governments have come to agreement on all matters to recommence the live cattle and sheep export trade between our two countries,” Mr Joyce said in a statement.

He said the introduction of ESCAS in Egypt would replace a government-to-government regulatory framework, and was a recommendation following a Department of Agriculture investigation report into allegations of mistreatment of cattle in two Egyptian abattoirs in May 2013. ESCAS requires Australian exporters to establish supply chains which are consistent with World Organisation for Animal Health standards.

Report recommended ESCAS

The Department’s 10-month joint investigation with Egypt’s General Organisation for Veterinary Services found that animal handling and slaughter practices at the Ain Sokhna facility had failed to conform to OIE standards. However, the Ismailia abattoir was found to be operating in accordance with its operations manual.

The Department’s own regulatory compliance investigation found the government-to-government regulatory framework to manage cattle exports to Egypt didn’t deliver outcomes consistently meeting OIE standards.

Industry placed a voluntary ban on the live cattle trade to Egypt when the cruelty controversy first erupted, but trade had been in limbo since August 2012, when Egypt advised that imported cattle couldn’t be treated with hormone growth promotants (HGPs).

The Department’s investigation also failed to resolve questioning about the actions of the Egyptian vet - Dr Mahmoud Abdelwahab - who was central to Animals Australia’s original complaint and subsequent broadcast of the horrific cruelty allegations on ABC television and the trade dispute over HGPs.

Industry needs to assess market: ALEC

Ms Penfold said while it was disappointing it had taken almost a year to gain the agreement, today’s announcement provided clarity around market access and allowed exporters to establish supply chains under ESCAS.

“Back in May 2013 when the industry placed the export suspension on the market following incidents of poor handling and cruelty, we made it clear to the government and the public that reopening of the market would be dependent on a move to ESCAS and agreement around HGPs," Ms Penfold said in a statement.

“This change to ESCAS places responsibility for welfare in the hands of exporters rather than that responsibility being held by the Australian and Egyptian governments as under the previous Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

“This gives exporters far more capacity to manage supply chain issues in a timely and effective manner.”

Ms Penfold said exporters were now considering their commercial options in the market including whether to recommence sheep exports.

“In the short-term, exporters will look to have the existing closed loop facilities approved under ESCAS particularly as there is interest in supplying cattle to the market for Ramadan.

“But with Australia out of the market for the past two years, Brazil has moved in to at least one supply chain and with that comes little to no welfare standards or oversight underpinning their export operations and does little to improve welfare standards globally.

“Our regard for welfare… puts Australian exporters at a competitive disadvantage.

“In relation to the possibility of sheep exports to the market, there will need to be infrastructure changes in existing facilities in order to handle large volumes of sheep. This means that the sheep trade is likely a medium to longer term proposition for exporters.”

ESCAS not enough, says activist

Animals Australia spokesperson Lisa Chalk said the Department’s recent investigation outcome reiterated that where there are no local laws to regulate the behaviour of workers, “exported animals will always remain at risk of cruel treatment - regardless of MoUs and regardless of whether ESCAS is in place”.

“We are constantly seeing that the paperwork that is in place purportedly to protect the welfare of exported animals is not worth the paper it is written on,” she said.

“It needs to be remembered that OIE guidelines are not an appropriate benchmark for good animal welfare.

“They are simply intended to prevent the worst abuses.”

Ms Chalk said when Australian cattle were exported to Egypt again, they would be subjected to “completely inhumane restraint devices that tip the terrified animals upside down so that their throat can be cut whilst fully conscious”.

She said the Ismailia abattoir findings were insufficient and meant there was no guarantee that animals won’t have their tendons slashed in yards again because it’s a “locally acceptable way to deal with a difficult animal”.

Senate hearings

At recent Senate estimates hearings, WA Liberal Senator Chris Back questioned the Egyptian vet’s role in first raising the HGP issue in Egypt in July 2012 - when there was no restriction on HGPs for Australian cattle sold into the $25 million per year Egyptian market.

Senator Back said it was an “absolutely remarkable coincidence” the vet was then the same person who came up with the video footage underpinning the department’s investigation.

When the controversy erupted, Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council CEO Alison Penfold said the Egyptian vet was employed to oversee animal welfare at the Ain Sokhna abattoir but stood back while the “horrific” acts took place which appeared in the video footage, making no attempt to intervene.

The Department said it received reports the vet had “a number of commercial conflicts of interest” with respect to both the Ismailia and Ain Sokhna abattoirs “that may have influenced the allegations of animal welfare abuse made in his interview”.

The vet’s allegations were investigated by the Department, and that of an abattoir worker, based on interview transcripts.

But specific allegations about the failings of restraint boxes used at the Ismailia abattoir “could not be substantiated”.

Mr Joyce said he welcomed the resumption of live trade with Egypt as “another important milestone for industry and opportunity for Australian producers who are doing it tough”.

FarmOnline
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READER COMMENTS

Barker
20/03/2014 2:47:38 PM

Australia's live exporters and farmers have no interest in animal welfare and as for producers doing it tough - I could not care less - what about the obscene cruelty routinely inflicted on their live exported animals? Shame on Australia for supporting all this abuse of livestock.
Doug
20/03/2014 7:01:54 PM

Shame on you Barker. Animals Aust Supporter Blind to the truth
Bushfire Blonde
20/03/2014 8:47:27 PM

Barker, if you want to shut Live Exporting down, what are the details of compensation that would need to be paid to all of the legitimate business that private enterprise has set up to enable this trade to flourish?
WakeUpPlease
20/03/2014 9:00:50 PM

And Barker, you wonder why we put you greenie, vegan loony's in the same class as terrorists. That's what you do to us; Tar everyone with the same brush because we farm! I'm normally disgusted, and my wife is in tears when we see the inhumane way they treat animals over seas. But what do we do, starve them? Why don't you save your venom for the governments that allow this crap to happen? Oh that's right, you'd probably be hung or caned! Easier to put the blame on farmers trying to provide for their families. Tip. Labor and the greens are now extinct. Get over it.
hunter
20/03/2014 9:42:39 PM

barker - you're bound to be right with such a sweeping generalisation of all farmers and live exporters... you fool! that there have been a few causes of cruelty (and it's a bit of a stretch for you to say it's routine, it certainly isn't) is a bit like saying there have been a few cases of pedophilia therefore no child should be allowed to go to school where they might be at risk...
Ex farmer
22/03/2014 9:24:27 AM

Keep up the good work Australian farmers and exporters. We do feed many people with a variety of foods throughout the world, live export is part of it and its here to stay.

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COMMENTS

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And this would ring a free market economy in a democracy. To bad so sad.
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Why don't farmers demand cash on delivery from any trader they have no record of performance
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I am in no position to comment on the issues between Culleton and the ANZ or the other farmers