Ludwig to force MLA to pay up

Lauren Celenza and AAPCountryman

A war of words has erupted between Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig and the livestock industry’s peak body over who should pick up the tab to feed cattle stranded in yards as a result of the Government’s decision to halt trade to Indonesia.

Senator Ludwig said he would use his powers to force Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) to release $5 million in contingency funding to assist those hit by the suspension of the live cattle exports.

“It’s important that this industry does take responsibility for its own live export industry,” he said.

“MLA is critically placed to be able to do that and support the industry through this.

“I am prepared to exercise my legislative rights to direct MLA to use funds to manage the immediate domestic supply chain for this industry.

“In the short to medium term, we need to ensure that we have got the supply chain domestically taken care of.

“The $5 million is important for that purpose.”

MLA, on Tuesday, rejected calls for it to pay for the fallout of a ban imposed by the Government.

Pastoralists and Graziers Association vice-resident Ruth Webb-Smith was also adamant that producer levies should not be used to pay for the mess the Government had created.

WAFarmers too threw its support behind MLA and its strategic vision for the industry.

Profarmer senior market analyst Malcolm Bartholomaeus said if the public wanted live trade banned, they should bear the costs.

“It’s an issue that has captured the Australian public, but the cost of the actions are going to be borne by very few,” he said.

“That is not fair and equitable so the issue of compensation would be quite a serious one that needs to be considered.”

Mr Bartholomaeus said WA had minimal capacity or demand for the type of cattle bound for our South-East Asian neighbours.

“Access to other processors and markets is constricted due to the location, that’s why the Indonesian trade was developed,” Mr Bartholomaeus said.

“The abattoirs in WA aren’t in the right place nor do they have the capacity to take on these cattle.

“Cattle will find its way back into the other supply chains, but at increased costs and then the increased supply will negatively affect the overall beef market.”

Mr Bartholomaeus said feed-grain exports to Indonesia may also take a hit in the short term but he did not expect Indonesia to retaliate by not taking wheat for flour.

Indonesia imports about two million to three million tones of grain from WA annually, for cattle feed and flour mills.

“In the short term, until the Indonesians can organise new supplies of cattle, the demand for grain may go down,” Mr Bartholomaeus said.

“It’s going to take a long time to rebuild the trade and make it satisfactory to the public.”

WA Agriculture Minister Terry Redman said the Federal Government should immediately expand Centrelink support — equivalent to that offered under the Drought Pilot — to all cattle producers affected by the ban.

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