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Exporters push for deadline extension

Kate MatthewsCountryman

Exporters believe the live sheep trade to the Middle East will come to a grinding halt from next month, because the deadline for the Government's new rules on exporting is too ambitious.

Under the Farmer Review, the Government has endorsed a February 29 deadline where 75 per cent of Australia's live export trade has to meet supply chain tracking and processing and handling requirements to internationally accepted standards.

The deadline for the entire trade is December 31.

While Indonesia and Egypt have post-arrival regulatory arrangements already in place, the deadline for Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Turkey is a month away.

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Last year, until November, these countries imported 85.2 per cent of 2.3 million exported sheep.

The deadline was described as 'too ambitious' in a leaked email, written by Emanuel Exports director Graham Daws on January 9, addressed to industry and government officials.

Mr Daws wrote 'we will have another Indonesia debacle on our hands' and outlined six problem areas.

These included a lack of detail, a lack of government consultation and the complexities involved in rolling out the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System.

More training was called for as well as information for importers on auditing and confidentiality.

Mr Daws also highlighted supply chain agreements were still in draft form, yet to be AQIS approved and importers lacked legal authority to make changes without the support of their local ministries.

On Thursday, Mr Daws will be part of a 10-strong delegation when Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig visits the Middle East to see the progress of the reforms first hand.

The delegation, which includes a number of Australian exporters and representatives from the Australian Livestock Exporters' Council, Sheepmeat Council of Australia, LiveCorp and the Cattle Council of Australia will visit Saudi Arabia (January 27 to 29), Kuwait (January 29 to 30), Bahrain (January 30 to 31) and Qatar (January 31 to February 1).

Mr Daws told _Countryman _ he hoped common sense would prevail and an extension be given.

"Everyone supports the principles of supply chain," Mr Daws said. "But you have to have the authority and the legal power to implement the detail and that's what we are discussing and, hopefully we will come to mutually acceptable resolutions."

The danger of the sheep trade coming to a halt is very real according to Pastoralist and Graziers Association president Rob Gillam.

"The most important thing that can happen is the Minister gets involved and takes a hands on approach …we need our Minister involved on a government to government basis."

A spokesman for Senator Ludwig said that while the Government is working with industry towards the timelines, the "responsibility rests with exporters to put commercial arrangements in place to ensure supply chains meet the expected standards".

"The Government is committed to working with industry to ensure the continuation of the trade," the spokesman said. "The upcoming trip to the Middle East will help communicate our reforms with foreign government ministers and key Middle Eastern importers and help Australian exporters facilitate the introduction of the new framework."

Animals Australia is firmly against any extension, saying exporters have had 30 years to get it right.

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