AUSTRALIA’S livestock exporting industry has a lot to be proud of for advancing animal welfare outcomes in recent years in overseas markets and its economic contribution locally.
It also has a “bright” future but the sector can’t afford to be complacent, says Assistant Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Luke Hartsuyker.
Mr Hartsuyker addressed the LIVEXchange conference in Perth today saying the industry was also strongly supported by Nationals leader and former Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce who is facing a by-election in his electorate on December 2 and expected to resume his portfolio duties on return to parliament.
The NSW Nationals MP spoke about the live export industry’s economic value in contributing $1.6 billion to the national economy, “with benefits extending well beyond the farmgate” and employment opportunities with up to 10,000 people involved directly and indirectly.
Mr Hartsuyker said, in terms of animal welfare outcomes, the industry was also having “a genuine impact overseas”.
He said Australia, through the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS), was the only one of more than 100 countries that exported live animals which required World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) welfare standards to be met as a minimum for exported livestock.
“Since the introduction of ESCAS, the Australian livestock industry has invested in training more than 10,800 people in overseas markets in better animal handling and slaughter practices,” he said.
“The live export industry has come a long way in recent years, and there is much to be proud of - we are at the stage now where we can build on this.
“This is an industry that fits perfectly the Coalition government’s vision for our agriculture industry.
“Our vision is of profitable, productive, resilient and sustainable agriculture industries into the future which all lead to a better return to the nation.
“The live exports industry has shown its ability to overcome obstacles, to adapt and return to profitability.
“It is an example of an industry that supports many of our rural and regional centres.
“While the future is bright, we must not be complacent.
“The sector must continue to adopt new technologies and systems, be receptive to change and be an attractive employer if it is to realise its potential.
“I believe we are up to the challenge.”
Mr Hartsauyker said at last year’s LIVEX conference he’d been in the portfolio for only a few months but was “suitably impressed” with what he’d seen of the industry and has since had an opportunity to expand on this including meeting with many producers and industry representatives and a visit to Indonesia to see more of the supply chain.
“Australia can be proud of its live export industry and the work it is doing to improve welfare outcomes well beyond our shores and well beyond Australian animals,” he said.
“It is this kind of work that often goes unreported.
“Not that this is an industry that expects much fanfare, but there should be balance.
“And there should be due recognition for demonstrated progress and real outcomes.
You are making a genuine impact overseas.
“People fail to recognise that our trading partners wouldn’t give up sourcing live animals if Australia no longer conducted the trade - they’d get them from elsewhere.”
He also said the industry was an important contributor to global food security.
“Our job as government is to put the policies and programs in place for our live export industry to continue to prosper,” he said.
“Our goal is to deliver practical policies based on common sense.
“We have put the Indonesian suspension behind us and got the live export trade up and running again.
“The challenge is now to put the industry on firm footing for the long-term and focus on better returns to the farmgate.
“Dr Temple Grandin, a world renowned animal behaviour expert, has previously stated at the 2015 LIVEX that she had observed ‘light years’ of improvement in cattle handling and animal welfare under ESCAS.
“The OIE has said Australia is leading the world in animal welfare and that industry’s investments in improving the implementation of OIE welfare standards has its full and unequivocal support.”
Along with training workers overseas, Mr Hartsuyker said industry had generated a range of successes in improving animal husbandry practices in the region.
He said the use of stunning prior to slaughter was now the practice in almost 90 per cent of cases in Indonesia, while more than 1000 facilities across 20 countries now had standards that meet the OIE recommendations for animal welfare.
“The proactive work you have done in-market to drastically reduce the number of sheep found outside supply chains during the high risk period of Eid is very impressive,” he said.
“This has resulted in a significant decrease in reported non-compliance during Eid.
“In 2015 around 11,800 sheep were observed outside of approved supply chains - in 2017 this was considerably less at only 330 sheep.
“These improvements have been delivered because you have built strong working relationships with your customers, and invested in infrastructure and training.
“During Eid, exporters and industry consultants rolled up their sleeves and put boots on the ground in local markets to oversee and manage sales systems delivering results that you can be proud of.
“Despite all this good work we need to continue to make sure industry meets community expectations.
“Social licence to operate is essential, and I’m pleased that accountability and community are part of this year’s theme.
“It is important that the industry continues to engage with the broader community, including your critics.
“No one is better placed to tell your story.
I know there are strong views about the livestock export trade in the community and some who won’t change their long-held views.
“But is important to communicate your achievements and put the facts on the record.”