Agriculture and Food Minister Terry Redman (left) and Premier Colin Barnett at the Katanning saleyards.
WA live exporters have questioned WA Premier Colin Barnett’s understanding of the industry following comments made on radio last week.
Last week Mr Barnett told ABC radio that live animal exports would decline in the future and Australia should start sending carcases overseas.
Speaking on the Pakistan incident involving WA live export company Wellard Rural Exports, Mr Barnett described the incident as “horrific”, but went on to say he hoped there would be changes in the industry.
“I would hope that maybe over the next 10-15 years, we can progressively transition the industry from live exports to chilled meat or carcase exports,” Mr Barnett said.
“I would hope that we would see the animals killed here and exported, perhaps not as processed meat but maybe as whole carcases or half carcases.”
He said Middle Eastern countries were developing and would be able to take chilled meat in the future.
“Live animal exports over time – and I’m talking about a considerable period of time – in my view will decline,” he said.
“The countries where those live animals go to, particularly the Gulf States and North Africa, they’re becoming very urban, far more sophisticated, far more Western-like.
“People doing their weekly shopping don’t go out and buy a live animal: they go into a supermarket and buy packaged meat.”
WA Live Exporters Association chairman John Edwards said it was disappointing to hear the comments.
“It is also disappointing given the strong stance he took following the Indonesian debacle last year,” Mr Edwards said.
“I sit on (Agriculture and Food Minister) Terry Redman’s Sheep Industry Leadership Council and that is all about the vision for WA’s sheep industry and live exports is paramount to a long-term sustainable sheep industry for WA.
“For the Premier to say what he did in light of the WA sheep industry and what live exports offers the industry, in the short, medium and long term, I don’t think there is really any consideration we can give to move the trade into a boxed meat trade when we know full well what the live sheep trade means for mutton prices in the State.
“Take the live trade away and the mutton prices crash.
“Producers are not going to produce sheep at less than income rewarding values to service a boxed meat trade.”
He said it showed the lack of understanding by the Premier of the mechanics of the industry and how live exports and processing go hand-in-hand.
“The two industries provide good strong competition for the producer,” he said.
“We can’t have one without the other.
“We very much have a depleted sheep industry if we lose processors and/or we lose live exporters.”
Mr Barnett also said he and Mr Redman were “working on changing the nature of trade with Gulf States.”
When Farm Weekly asked Mr Redman exactly what that entailed, he said it was about creating a more sophisticated trade relationship than what exists at the moment.
“I mean establishing different types of trade relationships rather than a spot-type trade relationship,” Mr Redman said.
“I have talked about this a number of times that agriculture basically deals with a spot market.
“Countries which need to secure their food go and buy it from the market and they buy it from the cheapest source where possible and that is largely where they make their decision.
“I can see us (WA) moving into a more sophisticated arrangement whereby we have a longer-term trade relationship with particular countries, not just built on spot market and price, but built on a genuine trade relationship.
“If these markets want to secure food, we become a preffered supplier to meet that need and we move more into a slightly long term space, not unlike the iron ore industry.”
When asked whether he agreed with Mr Barnett’s comments of moving to a chilled meat trade in 10-15 years, Mr Redman stopped short of saying no.
“The live trade is very important for WA and we absolutely support the continuation of the live trade into those export markets,” he said.
“I also support the Exporters Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) process which the Federal Government has put in place.
“I think we need to be very careful of just how far we go with our regulatory controls in that sector and that is something I am looking very closely at.
“Most of the markets we are exporting into now are not substitutable markets, that is, if they are not live trade then you simply don’t substitute them with boxed trade.
“So therefore live trade is the market.
“And we saw with what happened in the Middle East recently and livestock prices here dropped 25-30pc.
“We can see how the live trade actually underpins the market.”
When again asked whether there was any potential for the market to become a pure meat trade in just over a decade, he said it was hard to make a judgment on that.
“I think the Premier was referring to the maturity of those markets and where they are at in terms of public development,” he said.
“We know in the Indonesian market that they pretty much buy on a daily basis their meat needs for that day.
“They don’t have the facilities or the supply chains to achieve something more modern than that.”
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