Media Release

Live trade set to recommence with Bahrain

28 February 2014

Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, has announced that livestock exports to Bahrain can now recommence following agreement on health protocols for the export of Australian sheep.

“I am pleased to announce that the Australian and Bahraini Governments have reached agreement on all the government requirements for the live trade to recommence,” Minister Joyce said.

“Bahrain has historically been an important market for Australian live sheep exports – in 2011 it imported 400,000 Australian sheep, in addition to nearly 2,500 cattle. This will be great news for Australian sheep producers, particularly those in Western Australia where most live sheep for export are sourced.”

The government has been working with Bahrain to develop new animal health requirements following an incident in August 2012 when Australian sheep exported to Bahrain were not unloaded on arrival due to concerns about scabby mouth. Under the new health protocol, Bahrain has provided specific assurances on that disease and the Bahraini Cabinet has also provided assurances about the unloading of Australian sheep.

Minister Joyce also noted that the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council (ALEC) has lifted its voluntary suspension of trade to Bahrain.

“I welcome industry’s decision. Exporters can now work to re-establish Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) supply chains to restart the trade if they choose. I appreciate this may take some time yet, but am hopeful trade will start to flow soon.

“I am also announcing a change to the policy initiated by the previous Labor Government which required Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) to be negotiated with all overseas markets before Australian livestock can be exported.”

MoUs were first introduced into the livestock export trade in 2004 but the policy was expanded by Labor in July 2013 to include all new livestock markets.

“I have decided to reverse this decision - trade can go ahead in new markets without an MoU. Where there is already an MoU we are not walking away from it, we are just saying we don't need MoUs in new markets. This is another sign of the Coalition reducing Labor’s red tape,” Minister Joyce said.

“MoUs have mixed success as they are statements of intent between governments and are not legally binding. Most export markets receiving Australian livestock do not have MoUs in place.”

Australia currently holds MoUs with nine of 31 countries that receive Australian feeder and slaughter livestock.

“Negotiating MoUs is time and resource intensive. It was a burden on the trade and often delayed access to new markets, meaning our exporters were missing out on valuable market opportunities and losing out to foreign competitors. The removal of MoUs doesn’t affect how we want the trade to operate.

“It remains the responsibility of Australian exporters to manage livestock to meet the requirements of the Export Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) and the animal health requirements of the importing country.”

ESCAS and the Australia Standards for the Export of Livestock provide assurances that exported Australian livestock will be treated consistently with World Organisation for Animal Health welfare standards.