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Welfare of livestock put first in resuming trade with Saudi Arabia.

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Home | Media Releases DAFF05/108WT - 4 May 2005

Welfare of livestock put first in resuming trade with Saudi Arabia

Australia and Saudi Arabia have given the green light to the resumption of Australian livestock exports to Saudi Arabia under new arrangements which better assure the welfare of animals, Agriculture Minister Warren Truss announced today.

"The agreement will provide a significant boost to the $700 million livestock export industry and ensure there can be no repeat in the future of the MV Cormo Express incident in 2003," Mr Truss said.

The decision to reopen the trade follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) by Mr Truss and his Saudi Arabian counterpart, HE Dr Fahd Al Balghunaim, during the Australian Minister's visit to Riyadh today.

"The MoU outlines the conditions under which the trade will occur and includes assurances livestock will be unloaded into a quarantine facility if a dispute develops or a problem is suspected with the animals," Mr Truss said.

"Saudi Arabia was Australia's biggest Middle Eastern market for live sheep in 2003, importing 1.4 million head valued at $100 million. In 2001, the market took more than 2.1 million head.

"The trade was suspended in August 2003 after sheep on board the MV Cormo Express were denied entry.

"The signing of the MoU is a positive step in Australia's relations with Saudi Arabia and shows the Kingdom's goodwill in getting this important trade back on track. The MoU has become possible because of the completion of a new quarantine facility at Jeddah."

The Memorandum of Understanding with Saudi Arabia follows the signing of MoUs with the United Arab Emirates last December and Kuwait in March this year. Mr Truss is currently in the Middle East to progress negotiations on MoUs with other trading partners. Last week a similar MoU was signed with Eritrea.

"These MoUs build on other Australian Government initiatives to improve the welfare of animals involved in the livestock export trade, and provide for greater technical cooperation to improve animal handling in importing countries," he said.

"The Australian Government plans to impose more stringent requirements on livestock exports to Middle East countries which have not signed MoUs. An MoU will also be required before livestock shipments can commence to new markets in the region.

"Australia is a world leader in animal welfare and the MoUs are an important part of a

broader strategy to further improve animal welfare arrangements along the export chain - from the on-farm preparation right through to their unloading at the port of destination," he said.

"MoUs also build on other Australian Government initiatives for the livestock export trade, including enhanced standards covering livestock exports, improving the way export licenses are granted and the development of incident response plans."

Cattle mortalities have reduced from 0.34% of stock shipped in 1999 to 0.09% in the year ended 30 June 2004. Sheep mortalities are also declining - from 1.34% to 1.05% over the same period.

Mr Truss said the Australian Government is determined to ensure appropriate practices are followed and will continue to work with industry to further improve outcomes.

"The community expects the livestock trade to be conducted in a humane way. The Australian Government has indicated by recent actions that it is determined to ensure community concerns are addressed."


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 improve animal welfare outcomes in the livestock export trade to the Middle East. These initiatives were part of an $11 million response to the Keniry Report.

The Government has established a stronger regulatory framework for the industry, including new Australian standards for the Export of Livestock. This response also includes a $4 million investment to help improve animal welfare practices in importing

countries and to upgrade handling procedures.

If Australia ceased supplying the market there would simply be an increase in exports from other suppliers where animal welfare is accorded a much lower priority than is the case here. Our involvement in this trade is influencing change and animal welfare outcomes as a result have improved.

Development of MoUs with Middle East destinations represents a significant step in meeting the recommendations of the Keniry Review on having bilateral arrangements in place with importing countries. The MoUs provide for operational quarantine holding facilities so that animals can be offloaded prior to a final decision being made on the import clearance if a dispute arises.

On each ship carrying livestock to the Middle East:

z There is a vet and stockmen on board to care for the sheep;

z Each sheep has food and water on demand;

z Each sheep can lie down to rest;

z The air is changed on board twice as often as on a commercial airliner;

z There are special pens for sick animals to receive special veterinary care.

Q&A on Australia-Saudi Arabia livestock trade

1. When will trade resume?


The trade will resume once AQIS has finalised its discussions with industry on the arrangements to ensure that Saudi Arabia's import conditions can be reliably met. It is expected that sheep and goats would enter the preparation chain for export to Saudi Arabia by the end of May 2005. Exporters of cattle to Saudi Arabia could be ready to ship by mid May.

2. Are there any new requirements to export livestock to Saudi Arabia?

There are minor changes to the export requirements which applied before August 2003 for sheep and goats. The core requirements for vaccinations against scabby mouth, seven days pre-export quarantine and for

consignments to be accompanied by a veterinarian have not altered. Similarly, for cattle, the health requirements are very similar to previous conditions. Cattle are also required to undergo a 7-day pre-export quarantine period and to be vaccinated, amongst other things, against infectious bovine rhinotracheitis.

Under the terms of the MoU, AQIS will require exporters to present valid import permits for Saudi Arabia that confirm the type, number and class of livestock to be exported before AQIS health certification and export permits will be issued. The import permit may include other requirements for tests or treatments not listed in the import conditions, which exporters will be required to meet.

3. Will the MoU prevent another Cormo Express happening?

The MoU includes assurances that the unloading of livestock will commence within 36 hours of the vessel berthing at the Port of Jeddah. If a problem is suspected with the livestock, they will be unloaded into a quarantine facility under all circumstances.

4. What else is the Australian Government doing to improve animal health and welfare in the livestock export trade?

Following the Livestock Export Review the Australian Government has introduced a range of measures along the export chain to improve animal health and welfare. These measures include the development of Australian standards for the export of livestock (ASEL) replacing the industry based standards, and having these standards referenced in legislation. The standards cover all aspects of the export process, from sourcing and preparation of livestock through to voyage reporting requirements and were recently endorsed at the April Primary Industries Ministerial Council meeting.

Legislation implemented on 1 December 2004 gave effect to Dr Keniry's recommendations that government be solely responsible for licensing exporters, provided a legislative underpinning to the role of veterinarians in the export process, and introduced a three step process to obtain export documentation, including that exporters applying to export livestock submit a detailed consignment risk management plan setting out how they will source and prepare livestock to meet importing countries' requirements as well as relevant requirements in ASEL and that all livestock must be inspected in premises registered by AQIS before permission to leave the premises for loading will be granted, providing AQIS with greater oversight

of the entire export preparation process.

On 1 January, a compulsory levy on exporters was introduced to fund research and development projects to improve the performance of the live export trade.

With $1 million provided by the Australian Government over 4 years (2004 - 2008) the Government is also working with industry and our trading partners to help improve animal welfare practices in importing countries and to upgrade handling procedures.

5. What are conditions like on board? On each ship carrying livestock to the Middle East:

z there is a vet and stockmen on board to care for the sheep;

z every sheep has food and water on demand;

z every sheep can lie down to rest;

z the air is changed on board twice as often as on a commercial airliner;

z there are special pens for sick animals to receive special veterinary care.

6. What's in the MoUs? The MoUs:

z clearly outline the conditions under which the trade will occur;

z contain animal health requirements for export that have been agreed to by the

Australian livestock export and red meat industries; z outline procedures to settle disputes and for animals to be unloaded promptly into

a quarantine facility if a problem is suspected; and z contain provisions for technical cooperation.

Further media inquiries:

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

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