Live exports in limbo

By Country News

City people ‘‘in soy latte cafes’’ and ‘‘keyboard warriors’’ have been criticised by Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack for not understanding the complexities of Australia’s valuable live sheep export market.

The live export industry remains in limbo, with 60000 sheep stranded in a Perth feedlot after the Department of Agriculture suspended the export licences of Emanuel Exports and associated entity EMS Rural Exports.

Emanuel, which was behind the disastrous Awassi Express shipment where thousands of sheep died, had negotiations with exporters Wellard and Harmony Agriculture but could not agree on terms.

Mr McCormack insists live exports still have a viable future.

‘‘We want Australia to have the very best meat-exporting arrangements, whether it’s processed in chilled boxes or whether it’s indeed live,’’ he said.

‘‘But the fact is you can’t always have the meat processing plants open. There’s seasonal conditions (and) you’ve got to find the right staff.

‘‘It’s not as easy as it would appear to those people who probably sit in their soy latte cafes and the keyboard warriors when it suits them (to talk) about all matters of agriculture many, many hundreds of kilometres away.’’

Mr McCormack said farmers put animal welfare ‘‘front and centre’’ of their practices and they should not ‘‘take the fall’’ for exporters who did the wrong thing.

If Australia did not provide live exports then another country would take on the role, but with much lower welfare standards, he added.

The deputy prime minister, who is currently in Western Australia, also commented that there was a large disconnect between city and regional Australia.

‘‘I think a lot of city kids probably think their meats, fruit, vegetables and milk all just come from a refrigerator from a supermarket,’’ he said.

‘‘I don’t think they make the connection between the fact that it’s actually coming from animals, crops and a farm somewhere hundreds of kilometres away ... and their parents often don’t help.’’