Vietnam ban for exporters

Rueben Hale andBrad ThompsonCountryman
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Commonwealth authorities have banned two Darwin-based livestock exporters from sending cattle to Vietnam in the wake of the most recent animal-cruelty scandal to hit the industry.

Countryman has been told that Ruralco-owned Frontier International Agri, along with South East Asian Livestock Services, had been given the order by the Department of Agriculture as it investigates footage of cattle being bashed to death with sledgehammers and other cruelty.

It said the bans would stay in force until effective measures were in place to address animal control, traceability and verification processes.

The news is a double blow for RuralCo after being told on Monday that its southern live cattle exporting business has had its licence to send cattle overseas cancelled, after an investigation into how a shipment of 300 dairy heifers, some infected with Bovine Johne’s Disease, was sent to Japan last month; a move that triggered Japanese authorities to suspend cattle trade with Australia.

Meanwhile, SEALS, which is part-owned by WA-based Central Stockcare owner Dean Ryan, is also no stranger to controversy, after last year accusing rival exporter Wellard of hiring private investigators to gather damaging information about it and other exporters’ operations in Vietnam.

As a result of the ongoing investigation, the department has now suspended 21 facilities in Vietnam, including three feedlots and 18 abattoirs.

“The department is also conducting exporter control and traceability audits for all eight exporters with supply chains in Vietnam, due to be finalised by the end of July,” a department media statement said.

“Additional conditions have also been placed on four exporters as a result of these ongoing audits, including increased reporting requirements, additional monitoring and supervision by in-market staff to ensure all animals in their supply chain are handled in accordance with the standards required by the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System,” it said.

“Any further regulatory action to address issues identified through these audits will be determined once audit findings for each exporter are completed.

“Through ESCAS, every incident reported by industry, third parties ordiscovered through audit is investigated.

“Exporters are required to address all issues identified by correcting the problems found or by removing non-compliant facilities from their supply chain.”

Another four exporters face more onerous conditions if they want to continue shipping cattle to Vietnam. They face additional reporting, monitoring and supervision requirements.

The Australian Livestock Exporters Council said sanctions were appropriate if they stopped breaches of the Export Supply Chain Assurance System.

“The suspension of an exporters’ ESCAS supply chain is a serious and disruptive regulatory action and can have a sig nificant commercial impact on business,” it said.

One of the exporters hit with more stringent export conditions said the additional costs involved would eat into already slim profit margins, with domestic cattle prices at record highs.

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