Disease fears disrupt Middle East shipments

Melissa Williams and AAPCountryman
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Scabby mouth has been blamed for disrupting two Australian sheep shipments due to unload in the Middle East during the past week.

Sheep on the 50,000 head capacity Al Shuwaikh, run by Emanuel Exports, were destined for Bahrain but were diverted and unloaded in Kuwait after concerns were raised by Bahrain officials about an outbreak of scabby mouth disease.

Emanuel Exports managing director Graham Daws said Bahrain officials wanted to undertake health checks of sheep on the day after the Al Shuwaikh had berthed in the country.

But he said given the hot and humid conditions, the company had made the decision to take the sheep to Kuwait instead and by the start of this week these sheep had been unloaded and taken to a local feedlot in that country.

On Tuesday this week, a second load of 22,000 sheep in transit for the past month remained on board the Wellard Rural Exports vessel MV Ocean Drover moored off Bahrain. It sparked an intensive effort by government and industry officials to have the sheep discharged as quickly as possible.

Wellard had successfully unloaded sheep from the same consignment in two other markets without incident before the vessel arrived in Bahrain on August 29.

A Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) spokesman said the Ocean Drover was asked to leave its berth in Bahrain until matters were resolved after the discovery of scabby mouth in a small number of sheep.

The spokesman said scabby mouth was not previously notified by Bahrain as a disease of concern and was a minor viral disease present in most sheep and goat flocks throughout the world.

Late Tuesday afternoon Wellard advised _Countryman _ that it had started unloading the 22,000 sheep from the Ocean Drover.

The company stated the sheep were being discharged into an Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) compliant supply chain which was International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and HACCP accredited and met World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) standards.

Although it would not disclose the port location saying it was subject to commercial confidentiality.

An Australian Government accredited veterinarian, an independent veterinarian accredited by the Organisation of International Epizooties (OIE) and an international veterinarian specialising in animal welfare were overseeing the health status of the sheep and unloading of the vessel, with support from an additional five Wellard staff.

At the port of unloading, the animals were inspected and cleared for import by quarantine authorities.

Wellard said the mortality rate on board the vessel remained below the Australian Government upper limit.

Mr Daws said Emanuel Exports had delivered shipments to Bahrain without incident since March, when the country became part of ESCAS.

It is understood Wellard has sent several consignments to Bahrain without hiccups in recent months.

Australian Livestock Exporters Council chief executive Alison Penfold said there were no scabby mouth protocols for the Bahrain market, unlike Saudi Arabia.

Ms Penfold said the council had not been notified of other incidents in this market.

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