Exporters expect the resumption of the live cattle trade to Indonesia to move at just a ‘trickle’ for the rest of the year, with the first shipment due this week.
The shipment comes a little more than a month after the federal government lifted its ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia after coming under pressure over its economic consequences.
The controversial ban followed an ABC TV Four Corners documentary, which depicted the inhumane slaughter of cattle at some Indonesian abattoirs.
New welfare and auditing regulations imposed by the government require exporters to trace cattle from the point of export to the point of slaughter.
One of Australia’s largest live cattle exporters, Elders, was due this week to export 3,000 head of cattle out of Darwin to Indonesia.
WA-based Emanuel Exports, which ships its cattle out of Broome, Darwin and Wyndam, is still waiting on permit approvals that will allow it to resume its exporting operations to Indonesia.
“We’ve put those processes in place … there has been a lot of paperwork going through and it’s not just that, we’ve started off doing inspections of the feedlots and working on what is needed to be done to improve them,” Emanuel Exports managing director Mike Stanton said.
He said the company was expecting the permit to be granted this week and it would resume its export operations within the month.
The Indonesian live export market has been worth about $200 million a year to the WA economy, with WA exporting 370,000 head of cattle last year, 80 per cent of which were sent to Indonesia.
WA Farmers Federation president Mike Norton said the export market would be slow to resume, with exporters becoming nervous about meeting the new regulations.
“Now we can start the arduous process of putting systems in place for market re-entry, but it’s going to take some time because everybody has lost a great deal of confidence … and because now there is a great deal of responsibility put on the live exporters,” Mr Norton said.
Pastoralists and Graziers Association president Rob Gillam said he expected the number of cattle exported to Indonesia to be heavily restricted over the next six months.
“We will start with a trickle … the numbers will be restricted because it’s very much about making sure nothing goes wrong at the point of slaughter and it wouldn’t surprise me in six months if we only had a flow rate of 50 per cent of what it was before,” Mr Gillam said.
The WA Farmers Federation also expressed concern surrounding the growing number of exporters already looking to alternative markets such as the Middle East.
“That’s part of the problem and that’s why it won’t start quickly,” Mr Norton said.
“You don’t leave that sort of infrastructure just hanging off WA … these ships have all gone elsewhere and are doing other cargoes and consignments, so you now have to rejig their shipping schedule back into the WA cycle and that will take some time.”
Mr Gillam described the impact on the live export industry as a disaster, with the cost running well into the millions.
“It has been absolutely devastating for exporters, the producers, the ports and mustering and trucking companies,” Mr Gillam said.
“For some ports like Wyndam, most of their money comes from live export, but the effect can trickle down to as far as the hay producers that send their hay up north.”
“It’s been a massive cost to us and the industry itself, for us we’ve had to find other markets, which has been difficult … we have had to discount shipments to move livestock that have been in the system and in that space, there has also been extra costs incurred like food costs,” he said.
“And, basically, we are getting to the end of the season as well and we are not quite sure how we are going to get through all of that.”