Farmers left in limbo by longer export ban

Zach RelphThe West Australian
Kojonup sheep farmer Steve McGuire.
Camera IconKojonup sheep farmer Steve McGuire. Credit: Daniel Wilkins

Like many of the State’s farmers, Steve McGuire devised a flock management plan ahead of the sheep industry entering Australia’s first live shipping prohibition on animal welfare grounds.

The three-month moratorium for Middle East-bound voyages from June 1 to August 31 this year was announced last December, allowing the Kojonup sheep producer more than six months to prepare.

Mr McGuire oversees a flock of about 9000 sheep, plus lambs, making planning critical to ensure the farming operation runs smoothly.

However, his plans were thrown into limbo on Wednesday last week after the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources revealed it would extend the live sheep ban until September 22.

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Mr McGuire, who serves as WAFarmers vice-president under president Rhys Turton but spoke to Countryman in a personal capacity, said he was now unsure if his would-be shippers were bound for live export or the mutton market.

I have about 1600 wethers I was hoping to ship in the middle of September,

he said.

“The decision is a complication, that’s for sure, I was assuming that we would be shipping by September — it has affected my planning.

“We were told at the end of last year that we wouldn’t be shifting sheep during the three months and that was fine because I was able to prepare and have grain on hand.

“We had a plan and now that has been changed and it impacts my flexibility.”

Extending the ban comes after DWER announced it was mulling over three shipping options.

Proposals included extending the prohibition until September 30 to resume shipments on October 1 or restarting the trade on September 1 as initially planned.

The third proposal included two different restart dates for Red Sea and Persian Gulf-Arabian Sea destinations.

The three-month shipping ban has been extended until September 22.
Camera IconThe three-month shipping ban has been extended until September 22. Credit: Sharon Smith

The option was to prolong the shipping halt to September 22 for Red Sea destinations and to September 30 for live sheep exports to ports in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea.

Following industry consultation, DAWR’s announcement last week instead stated the live sheep export prohibition would be blanketed for all Middle East destinations to September 22.

In light of last week’s announcement of a blanket prohibition until September 22, Mr McGuire questioned why DAWR had waited until July to reconsider the Middle East shipping ban.

“The evidence the department is going on is not new, so why didn’t they make this decision last year rather than now,” he said.

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