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Progress in livestock export talks.



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DAFF04/109WT - 10 May 2004

Progress in livestock export talks

Good progress is being made on the development of bilateral Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) between Australia and the countries of the Middle East to underpin the livestock trade to the region, Australian Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Warren Truss, announced today.

Speaking following a mission to six countries in the region, Mr Truss said he was optimistic that satisfactory agreements could be finalised over the next couple of months.

"A draft MoU has been initialled with Kuwait, and discussions are progressing well with Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt," Mr Truss said. "Israel has also agreed to consider an MoU with Australia on the livestock trade."

Mr Truss said it is likely to be quite some time before livestock exports could be resumed with Saudi Arabia.

"The Saudi Agriculture Minister, HE Dr Fahed Balghaneim, is also anxious to ensure good animal welfare outcomes in the trade, and strongly supported Australia's view that a quarantine facility should be available to enable the prompt unloading of sheep and cattle which have become the subject of dispute," Mr Truss said.

"Dr Balghaneim advised that Saudi Arabia was in the process of building such facilities but they would not be ready for at least a year."

Mr Truss said he and Dr Balghaneim had agreed that our two governments should continue to work on the development of a MoU in anticipation that a quarantine facility would become available.

Mr Truss inspected unloading and holding facilities in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates during his visit.

"These facilities are at least as good as Australian handling arrangements," he said.

"There is significant unmet demand in the region for Australian livestock, although currency changes and cost are an issue in some markets."

Mr Truss also met with the Secretary General of the Gulf Co-operation Council, Mr Abdul Rahman Al-Attiyah, to discuss a range of issues, including the livestock export trade.

The GCC is working towards developing a European-style common market for the Gulf region, including common currency, but it is likely to be several years before these objectives are achieved.

"Mr Al-Attiyah supported the concept of a livestock quarantine facility in the region, however, it is apparent that the GCC is not yet able to speak on behalf of member countries on these issues or to enter into an MoU on

their behalf," Mr Truss said.

"Australian officials will visit the gulf again next month for a further round of discussions with the major importing countries and others where there is interest in extending the trade.

"The $1 billion livestock export trade is vital to Australia's agricultural export earnings and to the economies of rural and regional areas.

"In recent years, through the efforts of Government and industry, there have been major improvements in the welfare of animals in the trade. Cattle mortalities have reduced from 0.34 per cent of stock shipped in 1999 to 0.1 per cent in 2003. Sheep mortalities follow a similar trend, declining from 1.34 per cent to 0.99 per cent over the same period.

Following the broad-ranging investigation into Australia's livestock export industry chaired by Dr John Keniry, Australian Government initiatives were announced on 30 March 2004 to further improve animal welfare outcomes in the livestock export trade to the Middle East.

More information about the report and the trade is at: http://www.daff.gov.au/ministers/truss/releases/04/04076wt.html

Further media inquiries:

Minister Truss' office: Tim Langmead - 02 6277 7520 or 0418 221 433