Red tape slows export recovery

Rebecca TurnerCountryman

Frustration over the approval of export permits to Indonesia is being felt across the industry, with little certainty on when the first shipment will get under way.

Elders is the only Australian company to formally begin the notice of intention to export process with the Federal Government.

Managing director Malcolm Jackman said he expected to receive export approval this week and planned to have a ship leave Darwin with 3200 head of cattle on board next week.

Wellard Rural Exports managing director Steve Meerwald said Wellard was working with the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service to get documents in place to demonstrate the integrity of the company’s beef supply chain.

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Mr Meerwald said one Wellard importer would begin the auditing process this week, but other importers would take several more weeks to get to this stage.

“Until supply chains are audited, it is uncertain how far off our first shipment will be, ” he said.

“The conditions exporters must operate under are onerous, but ... we need to make sure everything is right before we can export cattle.”

Emanuel Exports director Graeme Daws said the company’s first cattle shipment to Indonesia was unlikely to occur before August.

“The myriad of bureaucracy we are having to work through is frustrating. The process is proving to be too cumbersome, ” he said.

Mr Daws said he was concerned that the new requirements in place for Indonesia would form the basis of what would be required in other export markets.

“We are all trying to achieve the same goal, but a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work, ” Mr Daws said.

“Every market needs to be treated individually; we can’t expect to superimpose one framework for all exports on different markets.”

Mr Daws said he was not confident the working group in place to develop new regulations for sheep exports would listen to the export industry.

He said the experience that exporters had in Middle Eastern markets should be recognised; however, so far political motives had got in the way of this process.

“Developing a traceable OIE supply chain is achievable but only on a mob basis of numbers in and numbers out, ” Mr Daws said.

“Once we have agreement on what is needed, then these requirements must be translated into Arabic to achieve understanding and agreement from importers.

“Everyone is working on this at full speed, so it will happen in the short term.”

Mr Daws said new export requirements would add costs through compliance.

“New requirements have the potential to disrupt traditional marketing of Australian sheep at the other end of the supply chain, so it has the potential to affect the volume of Australian sheep entering the Middle East, ” Mr Daws said.

Mr Meerwald said it was too hard to put a number on how demand for sheep or prices offered by importers would be affected by the new export requirements.

He said this uncertainty would remain until the Bill Farmer independent review into the live export industry was released.

“The policy will be the issue and how realistically it can be applied without rupturing markets, ” Mr Meerwald said.

Mr Daws said in order for Australia’s live export industry to have a strong future, it was essential to resolve the issue quickly.

“The jury is out on live exports future in Australia, ” Mr Daws said.

“It depends on what the final requirements are and that they are accepted by government in order for the industry to continue.

“The investment required to operate as an exporter is massive; this on and off approach to industry is damaging throughout the supply chain.”

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