Global expansion for ESCAS

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Jenne BrammerThe West Australian
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Piloting and assessment for a new Livestock Global Assurance Program - which builds upon and complements the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System - started this month in four key markets, a consultant to the Australian live export industry told the Pastoralists and Graziers Association convention last week.

Consultant Peter Schuster said the LGAP program was a conformity assessment program based on international standards that had the potential to prevent animal cruelty, benefit and protect the entire industry (including producers), and reduce the risk of a total market closure.

The proposed program would operate at arms length of the industry, and run independently of Government through the appointment of independent auditors.

Mr Schuster said the program would be piloted and assessed until December, and research outcomes would be reported to the livestock export industry in March 2016. It would then be up to the industry to make a decision on whether it wanted to implement the program.

He said the primary function of LGAP would be to ensure animals are treated in accordance with international guidelines, in any market and at all stages within an entire supply chain, post disembarkation, including the transporters, feedlots/farms and abattoirs.

Under the current system the Department of Agriculture approves an exporter based on their ESCAS.

That exporter, or their importer, then engages an auditor who audits the feedlots and farms (in market), and abattoirs, and reports back to the exporter who then reports to the regulator.

By contrast, with LGAP a truly independent auditor would audit the exporter and importer, transport, feedlot and farms, and abattoirs.

"While this is happening, and between audits, there is also an internal audit process going on which is mandated and has to happen at a prescribed intervals," Mr Schuster said.

Random audits would also take place under LGAP, which does not happen under ESCAS.

Mr Schuster said LGAP should provide assurances to all that effective animal welfare standards were in place and were demonstrated to be met.

"We want to build on ESCAS," he said.

"We need to identify and recognise strengths, so this is about continual improvement. It's not about going into a market with a regulatory big stick.

"The regulator is involved - this is not deregulation - but we are talking about continual improvement and recognising efforts in our global markets to improve how those markets are operating. LGAP is a regulatory enabler.

"ESCAS came through with a sledge hammer and implemented reforms. It's done what it can and this represents the next step in improving animal welfare globally."

He said facilities currently complying with ESCAS should not have difficulty meeting the new standard as both ESCAS and LGAP are based on the World Organisation for Animal Health guidelines.

"But if these facilities or operators (including importers and exporters) are not genuinely complying with ESCAS, they will have far more difficulty conforming with this program due to the safeguards being proposed," he said.

Four key markets are currently involved in the piloting, namely Australia (exporters), Malaysia with goats and sheep, Middle East (Kuwait with sheep - non-stun and Jordan with sheep - stun) and Indonesia (cattle stun and non-stun).

In response to a question at the PGA convention, Mr Schuster said he was currently unsure of costs, or how they would compare to the estimated $17 million annually to implement ESCAS.

"We are undertaking financial reviews of the structure and how it will operate. I'm not in a position to estimate cost of participation yet but this will be a key outcome of the pilot process and the ongoing research," he said.

"Ultimately this program will cost much less than a trade suspension."

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