Live exporters in hot water over sheep care

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

Two WA live exporters are caught up in an unholy row over regulations governing the industry as they compete in a Middle East marketplace during one of the most important events on the Islamic calendar.

One has blasted the Federal Government's animal welfare regulations as unworkable while the other says they have had a positive impact on the industry.

The two companies are caught up in an investigation into Animals Australia allegations that up to 10,000 Australian sheep were held at facilities outside approved supply chains in the lead up to the Eid festival in Jordan.

The serious nature of the allegations has the potential to close another major market for WA farmers, with Jordan buying 17 per cent of the 2 million sheep exported from Australia in 2012-13.

Wellard said that like many Australian exporters, it had invested heavily in resources to make the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance Scheme work.

The company, owned by Mauro Balzarini, said what had been portrayed as an industry issue in Jordan was limited to one supply chain in a thinly veiled swipe at Livestock Shipping Services.

LSS managing director Ahmad Ghosheh said the Jordanian-owned company had not seen evidence to back up the AA claims and it was too soon to speculate on the outcome of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry investigation.

Mr Ghosheh said the principles behind ESCAS were sound but the scheme itself was damaging the industry. He said LSS dominated the Jordan market and wanted it to stay open.

Wellard said it had gone to great lengths to ensure there were no animal welfare issues during Eid, a time when sheep are slaughtered and shared with family, friends and the needy.

Wellard Rural Exports chief executive Fred Troncone said the company had seven people working on the ground to assist the importer and its customers.

"The system (ESCAS) was implemented to bring about cultural change, which requires sustained effort and takes time," he said. "The system does not have to be abandoned but rather improved, as it is based on sound philosophy and assures the long-term best interests of the industry. The fact that it presents some practical challenges or cost pressures is not a good enough reason to scrap it."

Wellard staff and contractors working in Jordan are training livestock handlers, using fit-for-purpose sheep trolleys to move sheep and have fitted the abattoir with a new processing race.

The fact that it (ESCAS) presents some practical challenges. . . is not a good enough reason to scrap it." Wellard Rural Exports' * Fred Troncone *

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