Saudi live export trade push

28 Apr, 2014 10:30 AM
Comments
4
 
They are getting sheep at the moment ... it's just that they're not eating ours

FEDERAL Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce is pushing to reopen live export with Saudi Arabia, saying the live sheep trade could be worth in excess of $100 million annually to Australia’s economy.

However, Saudi Arabia’s refusal to comply with the Australian government's Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) is likely to engender further controversy in the livestock industry.

In August 2003 a shipload of 57,937 sheep bound for Saudi Arabia was rejected because importing authorities claimed that 6 per cent were infected with ‘scabby mouth’. By the time the Cormo Express was finally unloaded in Eritrea, 5691 sheep had died. The Australian government then suspended live exports to Saudi Arabia but resumed them in 2005.

Saudi Arabia has not taken live animals from Australia since ESCAS was introduced in 2011, taking Australian meat instead and sourcing live sheep from other markets.

The Saudis have complained ESCAS regulations “compromise their sovereignty”, Mr Joyce told ABC radio this morning.

Saudi Arabia was once one of Australia's biggest markets, but cheaper competition from markets such as Africa and Pakistan have replaced the Australian industry.

“They are getting sheep at the moment - it's not as if they're not eating sheep, it's just that they're not eating ours.

"I will be doing everything in my endeavours to see if there is a place where we can both land, where both sides are happy ... and we can get the trade going again," Mr Joyce said.

"I think it is a bit of a statement to say that the home of the Islamic faith, which is Saudi Arabia, are not capable of the humane treatment of animals."

Australia is not the only country that has animal husbandry standards, Mr Joyce said. “Other countries have them, and if other countries and can apply them, then the objective which is to minimise animal cruelty is obviously there.”

ESCAS is set to be reviewed with a report due in July. The system has been criticised by some industry members who claim it imposes unnecessary costs on exporters without improving animal welfare standards, preventing exports to key sheep and cattle markets.

"Saudi Arabia still doesn't agree with the extent that the ESCAS system goes to," Mr Joyce told Fairfax after returning from a flying visit to the Arab nation and Bahrain earlier this month.

"They say it's an intrusion on their sovereignty, and we had discussions about how we deal with that issue," he said.

"I don't want to say that we're going to get rid of ESCAS, but we have to try and work out whether we can get something to work in a form equivalent to ESCAS, but not so that it intrudes on another nation's sovereignty.

"We recognise where our limits are when it comes to Saudi Arabia."

- More to come

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READER COMMENTS

Rob
28/04/2014 12:27:45 PM

Minister Joyce is blinkered in his vision if he thinks live export should re-open to Saudi Arabia. How about he negotiates with the Saudi’s for greater market access for meat processors here in Australia? Currently, Tier 1 processors can export to the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Jordon but not Saudi Arabia. If the Minister was to negotiate access for these plants it would be a win win for both sides.
JT
28/04/2014 1:04:45 PM

Barnaby Joyce doesn't understand his own system of regulation. ESCAS can't intrude on a country's sovereignty, it is a commercial agreement between the importer and exporter and governments don't even come into it. And he clearly forgets that most live export cruelty occurs in Islamic countries and that Muslims all over have condemned it, just as we have.
Archiblad
29/04/2014 9:16:34 AM

There is no doubt about it ESCAS is a defacto trade restriction and should be removed completely and replaced by international agreements that don't infringe sovereignty, but improve animal welfare. Scrap ESCAS!!!!
Ash
18/05/2014 2:30:19 PM

What Barnaby Joyce fails to recognise is the way in which the live export trade is inherently cruel. Requiring animals to spend weeks on end on a ship necessarily violates their welfare requirements, and many animals suffer conditions such as conjunctivitis, heat stress and pneumonia as a result of the poor accommodation. No reforms to ESCAS or domestic measures in recipient countries to protect animals will neutralise the cruelty associated with the grueling journey at sea.

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