INCORRECT media reporting about the actual amount of Australian government funding going towards training abattoir workers in Vietnam have been rebuked.
Agriculture and Water Resource Minister David Littleproud launched the Managing Abattoirs, Training and Exchange of MinisterSkills (MATES) in-country training program, during his recent visit to Vietnam.
On return, he told Fairfax Agricultural Media there’d been a notable cultural shift in improving welfare outcomes for exported Australian cattle and acceptance of Australian standards imposed on the foreign supply chain.
But the Department of Agriculture was forced to issue a media statement saying a number of media outlets had incorrectly reported on the $146 million government investment in Vietnamese abattoir worker training, through the MATES program.
It said the total funding for the Vietnam abattoir workers component of the MATES initiative was about $950,000 over two years, from 2018-2019.
“The MATES program is one component of the Aus4Skills program, administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - the total amount of funding for the Aus4Skills program is $146 million over five years,” it said.
Mr Littleproud said the MATES in-country training program aimed to ensure international animal welfare and food safety standards were being met, in the Vietnamese supply chain.
He said the training program would help to address any animal welfare issues in Vietnamese abattoirs and build more trust with the Australian community.
“We’re training people to be slaughterman and butchers and to do it in a proper way so we can protect the live trade industry on the ground in Vietnam,” he said.
“There’s great acceptance of that and MLA (Meat and Livestock Australia) have been there leading the way and they’re making sure these programs are getting rolled out
“I visited an abattoir there and they were very excited about the fact that the investment in the human capital was going to have a payback not only to them but also for our cattle producers, in the North in particular.”
According to LiveCorp, last year Australia’s export of live cattle totalled 879,958 head valued at $ 1.2 billion - with Vietnam, taking 167,369 head or 19 per cent of all cattle exports.
Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC) – which represents the post-farm-gate sector such as meat processors – CEO Patrick Hutchinson used the funding announcement to slam the federal government over the MATES program.
“We have repeatedly run ministers through the key issues affecting our members - the number one headline is we need a permanent workforce - and we are being ignored while money is being channelled to overseas red meat supply chains,” he said.
Mr Hutchinson said “To invest Australian taxpayer funds in skilling labour overseas when our own local industry is struggling for those skills is maddening”.
“When 8.5 out of every 10 animals sold in Australia are bought by processors, and we have begged and borrowed continually to get this government to recognise the value in investing in the red meat supply at similar levels to what industry does, this beggars belief,” he said.
Great opening night for Apprentice Butchers of SA. Teaching the trade people of our industry tomorrow, today. Great example of industry investing in itself when others won’t @D_LittleproudMP@cattlecouncilau@SheepProducers@redmeatcouncil@meatlivestock@Australian_Porkpic.twitter.com/2I0vvZy09Y— AMIC (@Aus_Meat_Ind) April 18, 2018
AMIC also took a back handed swipe at the federal government’s announcement on social media in relation to an event for the Apprentice Butchers of SA, where Mr Hutchison handed out awards.
“Great example of industry investing in itself when others won’t,” a Tweet said which included Mr Littleproud’s Twitter handle.
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