AUSTRALIAN livestock exporters have endorsed market suspensions on Malaysian importers and facilities which have failed to meet animal welfare, control and traceability standards during the annual Korban festival period in September.
Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council CEO Simon Westaway commended Australian exporters with Malaysian supply chains for working proactively with regard to Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) non-compliance during the festival.
“Poor welfare outcomes are never condoned nor excused by exporters,” he said.
“As shown in the past month, not only in Malaysia for Korban but in the Middle East during Eid al Adha, transparency and accountability are important at all times in our industry and absolutely pivotal when problems in the supply chain are detected.”
Under ESCAS requirements, Australian livestock must not be sold outside of approved supply chains and cannot be purchased for home slaughter or for slaughter at facilities that have not been approved as meeting international animal welfare standards.
Mr Westaway said exporters were cooperating with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) in its investigations regarding supply chain leakages.
“Wherever deliberate supply chain breaches occur, the extensive powers regulating our markets should be exercised accordingly,” he said.
“Australian exporters have acted swiftly to identify non-compliant facilities in Malaysia, so that where there is clear evidence that our livestock export standards have not been respected, immediate market sanctions can be applied.
“Our message to the Malaysian supply chain is very simple. Just as Australian exporters must treat their ESCAS compliance obligations as absolute non-negotiables, our Malaysian partners and customers must do the same.”
Mr Westaway said while a number of facilities had already been suspended subsequent to information provided to DAWR by exporters, further sanctions were likely and could include industry action in accordance with the Malaysia ESCAS Control and Traceability Agreement, which came into effect on 10 June 2016.
Mr Westaway said the Agreement, which was developed to provide guidelines on practical measures to ensure that ESCAS is consistently applied, enjoyed the support of Australian exporters to Malaysia and customers in the market.
“As part of this process, all parties have acknowledged that leakage from approved supply chains is a risk to animal welfare and is a significant threat to confidence in the whole market,” he said.
“The Agreement includes an industry mechanism for dealing with breaches, which enables Australian exporters to take decisive action in Malaysia where ESCAS requirements have not been met. This includes provisions for industry-led suspensions of non-compliant facilities and operators.”
Mr Westaway said such action demonstrated Australian livestock exporters’ readiness to act as a united industry in the best interests of ongoing, sustainable trade in overseas markets.
“The long-term sustainability of any livestock export market is compromised whenever Australia’s conditions for animal welfare, control and traceability are not adhered to,” Mr Westaway said.
Mr Westaway said he believed the vast majority of importers and approved facilities in Malaysia were abiding by ESCAS standards and would be unaffected by any suspensions.
“Australian exporters and our ESCAS-approved customers are heavily invested in animal welfare, control and traceability in our overseas supply chains throughout the year, not just around busy festival periods,” he said.
“The presence of animal welfare personnel and other industry representatives in countries like Malaysia enables exporters to constantly monitor supply chains, report ESCAS compliance concerns to DAWR as they arise and provide ongoing training and advice to livestock handlers.”
Mr Westaway said exporters were reviewing their supply chains following the Islamic festival period and would continue to implement measures that prevent Australian livestock from being removed from approved supply chains. He also pointed to the latest Regulatory Performance Report published by DAWR, which includes a number of reviews detailing reports of ESCAS non-compliance.
“The report is a timely reminder that ESCAS is working. It also confirms that ESCAS breaches, especially supply chain leakage, is a constant risk in many of our markets and that we must remain vigilant at all times,” Mr Westaway said.
The report outlines a range of regulatory, corrective and preventative actions implemented by DAWR in response to confirmed non-compliance, including the removal of non-compliant facilities from the ESCAS supply chain.
Corrective actions implemented by exporters, as outlined in the report, include independent auditing, the provision of additional training to facility staff, the suspension of supply chains and the appointment of Animal Welfare Officers (AWOs) to oversee livestock control, traceability and welfare. A copy of the report can be found here. ALEC’s earlier statement regarding to Eid al Adha can be found here.
Note: The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is responsible for regulating and controlling the livestock export trade. Information about the laws and regulations governing the trade, and how the Department administers them is available online at www.agriculture.gov.au
A PDF version of this statement which included extended Background Information can be downloaded here.
CAPTION: Mosque officials in Malaysia in September participate in pre-Korban training in ESCAS-compliant handling and slaughter.