Live export ruling welcomed but at what cost to industry?
24 October 2011
The release of the independent review into the live export industry has been welcomed by industry participants, but falls short of addressing the problems caused by the original temporary ban, according to agriculture lawyer, Trent Thorne, from McCullough Robertson.
Mr Thorne says while the Government has stated its continued support for the live export trade, it comes after a high price has been paid by many farmers and others in the supply chain. He says the release of the Independent Review of Australia’s Livestock Export Trade (the Farmer Review) gives a ‘big tick’ to the domestic arm of the live export industry, with criticism largely aimed at overseas processing.
‘The issues to be addressed through tougher regulations remain at the other end of the supply, the processing and slaughter carried out by the overseas customer,’ Thorne says.
‘This would seem to suggest the live export ban didn’t need to happen in the first place, and the pain and losses experienced by cattle farmers and suppliers could have been avoided.'
‘Further, material now available under FOI, shows that in the period immediately before the Four Corners program went to air the Minister and the Department were well aware of issues with overseas processing and slaughter in some Indonesian abattoirs.'
‘Briefing notes and other papers show the industry itself was trying to come up with solutions well before the ban, which was an over-reaction to public sentiment and which could have been avoided if appropriate action had been taken earlier.’
Mr Thorne says the impact of the original ban on 6 June 2011 has left many farmers, families and communities struggling financially and that despite compensation and the release of new regulations, some may never recover.
‘The compensation package was woefully inadequate when you consider the level of debt many farms carry and the losses experienced over the month-long ban and the slow reopening of the trade, were in excess of $100 million.’ says Thorne.
‘Cash amounts offered were a drop in the ocean, and offering loans to affected stakeholders just further exacerbated the situation for those who couldn’t pay interest on existing debt.'
‘Now with the season drawing to a close and the wet season approaching, many in the industry won’t have time to recover. There are still a lot of cattle left in Australia ready for export and there simply isn’t enough time to move them.’
Thorne says he is continuing to work with several clients in the live cattle export industry, from farmers to others in the supply chain such as feed-lot owners and transport companies seeking adequate compensation.
For more information contact: Kristie Fankhauser on +61 7 3233 8876.