Opportunity for WA cattle in the wake of Queensland chaos

Zach RelphCountryman
Cattle at Port Hedland.
Camera IconCattle at Port Hedland. Credit: Alex Massey

The torrential floods swamping Queensland has provided a fortuitous boost for WA’s live cattle export trade.

At 7pm last Monday, 3552 head of cattle departed the Pilbara Port Authority-operated Port of Port Hedland aboard the Gudali Express en route to Tanjung Priok, near Jakarta, in Indonesia.

The shipment, sourced from various Pilbara stations, comes as Queensland producers seek to overcome the unprecedented floods which have reportedly killed more than 500,000 cattle.

PPA live export manager Jon Giles said WA was capitalising on Indonesia’s cattle demand in the wake of the Queensland cattle catastrophe.

“(It is an) opportunity taken by the exporter given the availability of local cattle when floods are impacting certain Eastern States ports,” he said.

“Pilbara Ports Authority are hopeful of a continuation, however, we don’t currently have any firm bookings.”

The Gudali Express shipment provides a glimmer of hope for northern WA’s live cattle resurgence. The Gudali Express is owned by Netherlands-based shipping juggernaut Vroon.

Pilbara’s live cattle industry is still recovering from the former Gillard Government’s botched attempt to close the industry in 2011.

Only one live cattle vessel set sail from Port Hedland last year, when the MV Devon Express departed with 2714 cattle.

The voyage, bound for Panjang Port in Indonesia, was the third live export shipment to leave the maritime facility since 2013 after two voyages in 2017.

Mundabullangana Station owner Michael Thompson sympathised with Queensland farmers enduring the aftermath of the horrific weather.

Mr Thompson runs 6000 Droughtmaster breeders at the Pilbara pastoral lease and a herd of 2000 at his farm in Gingin, but did not sell cattle into Monday’s shipment.

The experienced pastoralist said he hoped the Queensland’s agricultural industry would rebound.

“I wouldn’t wish this on anyone — it really is terrible for the industry,” he said. “We are going to have our low points too and we are at the moment, because it’s very dry. No one is happy taking advantage of other farmers’ woes.”

A Mecardo-led report, released in December, found WA held a 25 per cent stake in the nation’s $1.2 billion live cattle export trade.

It revealed 265,000 head exited through the WA’s ports annually from 2012-2017.

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