Second sheep exporter exits amid licence uncertainty

Headshot of Jenne Brammer
Jenne BrammerThe West Australian
VideoThe Federal Government has suspended Emanuel Exports' licence.

A second live sheep exporter has voluntarily withdrawn its operations to the Middle East, citing a lack of clarity over the export process.

Harmony Agriculture and Food Company’s entity Phoenix Exports confirmed yesterday it had cancelled plans for a small shipment of fewer than 15,000 sheep to the Middle East, which was due to leave Fremantle later this month.

The cancellation comes as a second Emanuel-operated vessel, the Al Messilah, arrived off the WA coast yesterday, sparking renewed speculation the company was working on a temporary fix for its licence problems.

Industry sources suggest Emanuel may be offering to split the 60,000 sheep, stranded in a Baldivis feedlot after the suspension of its licences, over two ships to ease welfare concerns as they head into the heat of the northern summer.

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Emanuel would still need a third-party licence holder to transport the sheep aboard the two ships.

Harmony managing director Steve Meerwald confirmed Phoenix was planning a small consignment for later this month, but there was too much uncertainly, driven by the possibility Animals Australia could seek an injunction around the export of sheep.

Animals Australia said last week it would seek an urgent injunction from the Federal Court of Australia if the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources granted an export permit for the shipping of Emanuel Exports’ sheep to the Middle East via its subsidiary EMS Rural Exports, on the basis it would be unlawful.

Emanuel Exports has since been unsuccessful in exporting the 60,000 sheep through EMS Rural Exports, whose live export licence was also suspended by Department of Agriculture.

Mr Meerwald said his firm did not want to bring more sheep into the system that could not be exported, so had cancelled the consignment and stopped buying sheep.

“We need more clarity about the legality of export permits before there are more sheep put into the export system,” he said.

“The Animals Australia injunction reasoning has broader implications than simply summer sheep trade, an issue the Government and industry need to have clarity on.”

Phoenix exports a small number of sheep to Oman only, with infrequent shipments and small volume consignments.

Mr Meerwald said Phoenix continued to support the WA sheep industry and was working to resume its niche sheep export program in the near future, in compliance with the highest level of animal care.

Harmony’s voluntary withdrawal comes after a decision last month by Livestock Shipping Services, WA’s second largest sheep exporter after Emanuel, to withdraw from sending Australian sheep into the northern summer

LSS said new regulations from the Federal Government made such shipments commercially unviable for the firm.

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