Live trade expansion promising

Melissa WilliamsCountryman

New live export markets appear set to open for Australian cattle, despite the controversy and new regulatory framework surrounding the trade.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) has received expressions of interest from Lebanon, Iraq and Iran for sourcing Australian cattle.

Trade of live cattle has also resumed with Vietnam after a seven-year break and more Australian cattle are being sold into Egypt.

DAFF acting deputy secretary Paul Morris said the first consignment of about 1000 live feeder/slaughter cattle destined for Vietnam left Darwin in late August under revised animal health certification arrangements.

He said these animal health requirements were renegotiated with Vietnamese authorities in 2008.

Mr Morris said Egypt was another potential growth market for Australian live cattle exporters.

Egypt has recently increased capacity to import Australian cattle after Australia accepted a second 'closed loop' facility at Ismailia.

In 2010, Australia exported more than 50,000 head to Egypt's only approved closed loop establishment at Ain Sokhna and the opening of the new supply chain paves the way to double cattle exports to this destination.

Mr Morris said Lebanon, Iraq and Iran were new markets which had not received shipments of Australian cattle for slaughter for many years, if at all.

But he cautioned that before any shipments went to these countries, Australia would need a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on live animal trade.

He said MoUs were being pursued for Iran and Iraq but negotiations with Lebanon were recent and work on an MoU with the country had not started.

Lebanon appeared interested in Australian cattle because more shipments were heading to Turkey and there might be an opportunity to piggyback on this trade, given its relatively close proximity.

Mr Morris said Australia already had MoUs on live animal trade in place with several countries in the Middle East and Africa, including Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Qatar, Jordon, Egypt, Libya and Eritrea.

These set out the terms under which trade will be conducted and ensure live animals sent to this region will be off-loaded on arrival either in the normal manner, or, if there is a suspected problem, into a quarantine zone for further inspection and testing.

This is in response to the Livestock Export Review in 2003 that followed the MV Cormo incident, where a ship carrying almost 58,000 sheep was left stranded after being rejected by Saudi Arabia and resulted in closure of the live export sheep trade to that country.

Mr Morris said the Federal Government's new regulatory framework for exports of live animals for slaughter, announced in October this year, would apply to any new markets and their supply chains.

"We will also need to determine whether Australian animals meet the health requirements of Lebanon, Iran and Iraq," he said.

Mr Morris said live exports of cattle to current markets in the Middle East and Africa surpassed 150,000 head in 2010 and there was good potential to boost sales if new destinations came on-line.

He said cattle specifications for new markets in the region would depend on the commercial buyers in these countries but WA cattle producers would benefit from increased diversification of export markets in the Middle East and Africa.

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