Dandaragan sheep producer wary of Labor plan

Zach RelphCountryman
Dandaragan sheep farmer John Richards is questioning Federal Labor’s plan to phase-out live sheep exports, if elected.
Camera IconDandaragan sheep farmer John Richards is questioning Federal Labor’s plan to phase-out live sheep exports, if elected. Credit: Bob Garnant

WA will be flooded with would-be Middle East-bound sheep and drown under increased slaughter demands if the live export trade is banned, a Wheatbelt farmer says.

John Richards, of Dandaragan, is concerned the State’s abattoirs will be unable to cater for an increase in sheep slaughter under a Bill Shorten-led Labor government’s processing plan.

“The reality is that the animals we produce, Merinos, don’t fit the local market,” he said.

“As a nation, we have developed relationships with countries who rely on us for sheep and now we are throwing them under the bus.

“We don’t have the abattoir capacity in WA to handle the end of the live export industry.”

Labor has pledged to phase-out the live sheep industry within five years if successful at May’s Federal election and transition it into a domestic-oriented sector.

With 28 licensed abattoirs in WA, Mr Richards — who has a flock of Cranmore blood Merinos — believes current facilities will not be able to cope with a rapid rise in slaughter rates.

Dandaragan sheep farmer John Richards.
Camera IconDandaragan sheep farmer John Richards. Credit: Bob Garnant

However, despite Mr Richards’ worries, Federal shadow agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon said there was scope to increase the State’s abattoir throughput under the Labor plan.

“Processors advise me there is good potential to ramp up abattoir capacity,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

Earlier this month, the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources announced a three-month recess on live sheep exports would be enforced from June 1 to August 31.

It comes after the trade was put on hold during last year’s northern hemisphere summer after footage emerged of dead and heat-stressed sheep on the Awassi Express.

Following the standstill, a Meat and Livestock Australia study found a strong wool market prevented WA export-type sheep from flooding the slaughter market.

About 126,00 head were shipped from the State to the Middle East in November after the halt was lifted, with Qatar receiving about 25,000 sheep and Kuwait about 23,000.

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