Exporter in Israel spat

Rueben HaleThe West Australian

An Australian live animal exporter has accused one of Israel's largest slaughterhouses of failing to pay a bad debt running into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Melbourne-based Otway Livestock Exports managing director Alan Schmidt said his company had been in a dispute with livestock giant Bakar Tnuva since January. He claims the Israel-based company short-changed OLE more than $600,000 on a cattle shipment.

In a writ lodged with the County Court in Victoria, the company claimed BT had either neglected, failed or refused to pay the balance of an outstanding debt from a shipment of about 4000 head of cattle shipped from Fremantle to Israel late last year.

BT is a subsidiary of Tnuva Foods Agricultural Co-Op Israel Pty Ltd, a company that has a turnover of more than $8 billion and is the largest food and dairy manufacturer in Israel, controlling about 90 per cent of the market.

The group's major shareholder until recently was Apax Partners a British Private Equity group. Apax has recently sold its interest to Bright Foods of China, one of China's leading dairy and food groups.

BT, which is one of only two abattoirs approved in Israel under the Australian Government's tight live-export regulations, is also no stranger to controversy, after video footage taken in one of its abattoirs surfaced allegedly showing Australian cattle being punched, kicked and beaten in 2012.

The dispute has come as a blow for OLE, which in recent times has become an increasingly dominant live-export player, battling for an increasing share of WA's tightening cattle supply.

Mr Schmidt told _Countryman _that before the dispute the company had been planning to deliver up to 20,000 cattle a year from Fremantle to Israel over five voyages, as part of a $5 million long-term contract.

He said the company would be seeking the outstanding amount, plus costs and lost interest.

"The shipment was contracted to be delivered on a cost-plus arrangement," he said. "BT was to meet all the costs of the shipment and OLE was to receive a fixed margin.

"Ultimately the cattle were delivered but Bakar Tnuva did not pay the full amount of the costs nor the margin agreed to OLE.

"We are led to believe that this is the second time that BT has failed to complete its obligations to an Australian exporter."

BT was contacted for comment but had not responded before _Countryman _went to press .

A directions hearing is expected to be held in a fortnight.

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