The Federal Government has indicated it plans to issue a directive that every shipment of livestock leaving Australia would need to have an independent observer on board.
This would include short-haul cattle exports leaving Northern Australia ports including Townsville, Karumba and Darwin, bound for the South-East Asian market.
Industry sources say the directive is a knee-jerk reaction following the deaths of sheep on a ship that left Western Australia earlier this year, and the cost involved threatens to cripple the beef life export industry.
It is estimated the independent observer would need to be paid $1300 a day, while a business class flight to return to Australia would also need to be issued.
A senior industry source said the proposed costs for the regulation was not warranted.
He said in the six months to December 31, 2017, it was estimated that the observers would have added about $2.25 million to the cost of exporting cattle from Northern ports.
“In that time, mortality reports show there were only 40 deaths, and this would have cost $2.25 million. Trade has lifted in the last six months so we’d expect that period to be closer to $3 million,” he said.
“In the Territory, 40 per cent of our cattle comes from Queensland and it goes without saying the producer shares in some of the cost.
“The exporter won’t absorb it all, and the importers have made it very clear that they’re not going to wear any more costs.
“So it’s the drought-impacted farmer that will feel the burden of additional regulatory costs in a trade that hasn’t had the same issues as the sheep trade.”
NT Livestock Export Association chair David Warriner said clarity was required regarding the proposal.
“Cattle exporters support moves to strengthen transparency throughout our supply chains and welcome the Federal Government’s efforts to see this implemented,” Mr Warriner said.
“Exporters and producers share significant concerns about the extra costs to be absorbed by industry because of the introduction of the observers, as well as the relevant qualifications and experience of those employed as observers and the reporting protocols in place, subsequent to a voyage.
“Very practical questions about who is responsible for the independent observers, what their day-to-day activities will be, and how they will be accommodated on board also need to be discussed further.
“Welfare management must be considered, especially if an observer, who is working at arm’s length from daily livestock management, is taking the bed and lifeboat space of a ‘hands on’ accredited stockman.”
Mr Warriner said exporters remained committed to improving transparency to support a sustainable livestock export trade.