Live trade fallout for saleyards, transport
The fallout of the Awassi Express scandal continues to haunt WA’s agricultural sector, with rural small businesses dependent on live sheep exports crippled by a downturn in sales and work.
Withnell Stockyards founder Jamie Withnell’s sales plummeted 40 per cent last quarter amid mounting industry fears stern proposed heat-stress shipping standards for Middle East-bound sheep voyages will be enforced.
Mr Withnell attributed the significant decline in business revenue to sheep producers’ rising uncertainty of the live shipping industry’s long-term viability.
The falling demand for sheep yards forced the Bindoon-based business to reduce the hours of its seven full-time employees, three of whom are now only employed part-time to work three days a week.
Mr Withnell said the family-owned business, founded in 1980, would be drastically impeded if live sheep exports ceased.
“I support live export because my business depends on it,” he said.
“Last financial year was positive. This year is the worst to date.
“Many politicians are determined to destroy a thriving industry to appease some activists who live in town.”
Mr Withnell’s declining sales comes as Australia’s live sheep export sector continues to navigate murky waters in the wake of last April’s Awassi Express scandal which catapulted the industry into turmoil.
Rippling repercussions from the leaked footage of dead and heat-stressed sheep aboard the Awassi Express have also spilt over into livestock road transport.
Rural and Livestock Transport Association WA previously outlined a work shortage among owner-operators during last year’s live sheep exporting halt.
RLTA has warned the Bill Shorten-led Labor’s promise to phase-out live sheep shipments and transition the industry to be more focused on domestic processing would force owner-operators off the road.
The livestock road carrier lobby group’s research found a live sheep would be carried about 31/2 times by the time it reached Fremantle Port, while a sheep travelling to a WA-based abattoir would be carried about 11/2 times.
With polls indicating Labor is poised to claim victory at this year’s Federal election in mid-May, shadow agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon is sounding the alarm for live exporters and sheep producers.
Mr Fitzgibbon maintained a Shorten government would end the northern summer trade at “the first opportunity” and phase out the industry entirely if Labor gained power in the Federal election.
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