Exporters welcome report into Vietnam supply chain

AUSTRALIAN livestock exporters to Vietnam have welcomed the Department of Agriculture & Water Resources (DAWR) regulatory performance report released today, which reflects the strong commitment in improved animal welfare shared between exporters and DAWR following evidence of cruel treatment of Australian cattle in Vietnam earlier this year.

The Department’s investigation was announced in July and in subsequent months, exporters have continued to proactively self-report instances of Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) non-compliance in the Vietnamese supply chain, while also cooperating fully with DAWR’s investigations. Existing suspensions and bans initiated collectively by exporters have also remained in place and enforced by DAWR.

As a result of a thorough review of Vietnam supply chains, conditions were placed on a number of exporters, including directions to two exporters to cease supply to the market until effective measures were put in place to address animal control, traceability and verification processes.

Further conditions applied by exporters and DAWR included increased reporting requirements and additional monitoring and supervision by in-market staff in Vietnam to ensure animals are handled in accordance with ESCAS.

Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council CEO Simon Westaway said a regulatory response such as the suspension of an exporters’ ESCAS supply chain was a serious and disruptive action, with significant commercial consequences, which also sent a clear message to exporters and participants across importer supply chains.

“As an industry, we have resolved to strengthen our reporting protocols and renewed our commitment to the full implementation of ESCAS – and where necessary to take comprehensive action to shut-out non-compliant facilities and businesses,” Mr Westaway said.

“Market suspensions and comprehensive auditing shows exporters and DAWR are committed to ESCAS and that the regulator and industry participants are willing to take significant and swift action in response to non-compliance. Exporters have revisited their supply chains and traceability measures and, in some cases suspended all supplies to Vietnam, until improved control systems could be demonstrated.

“This reflects the genuine commitment Australian livestock exporters have made to address these in-market issues head-on, working to ensure high standards in animal welfare are upheld throughout the Vietnam supply chain.”

Through ESCAS, every incident reported by industry, third parties or discovered through auditing is investigated. Exporters are required to address all issues identified by correcting the problems found or by removing non-compliant facilities from their supply chain.

As a result of ongoing investigations into Vietnam, more than 20 facilities have already been suspended, including a number of feedlots and abattoirs, which Mr Westaway said was a clear sign that the global-leading ESCAS was working effectively.

“Cruelty is simply not acceptable, which is why it is important Australian exporters continue our work in emerging markets like Vietnam, where our presence and ongoing levels of training and investment in the supply chain is helping to drive unprecedented improvements in livestock handling and slaughter practices,” Mr Westaway said.

“Australian exporters are committed to a transparent and fully accountable livestock export trade within the framework of the ESCAS regulatory system, which is shown to be helping to uphold the world’s best welfare, control and traceability standards.

“Exporters’ businesses have undergone unprecedented change under ESCAS, including a significant expansion of responsibilities and the services in cooperation with customers to deliver line-of-sight throughout the supply chain to ensure animal welfare.”

Mr Westaway concluded by reiterating that exporters remain resolute in their commitment to ensuring animals in their supply chains are protected from cruelty.

“We will continue to work with stakeholders across the supply chain in Vietnam to achieve ongoing and sustained improvements,” Mr Westaway said.

“That dialogue includes our partners in the production sector and we are grateful for productive ongoing discussions with the Cattle Council of Australia regarding measures which provide further supply chain transparency.”

A total of 11 DAWR ESCAS non-compliance reports and seven sub-reports released today can be found here.

Further information: Why does Australia export Cattle to Vietnam?

A PDF version of this statement is available here: alec-media-dawr-report-19122016

Media contact: Tom Dawkins (0476844886 or media@livexcouncil.com.au)