QUALITY ASSURANCE AND RISK MANAGEMENT

In 2011 the Australian Government commissioned an Independent Review into the livestock export trade; The Farmer Review. This review recommended that industry develop and implement a through-chain quality assurance (QA) system to complement government regulatory compliance programs.

In response to this report and following the implementation of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS), industry commissioned the MLA/LiveCorp Live Export Program to fund research into the feasibility of a risk management and quality assurance program to complement ESCAS.

The Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) is an assurance system based on four principles:

1. Animal welfare:  ensuring animal handling and slaughter in the importing country conforms to World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) welfare recommendations

2. Control through the supply chain: ensuring the exporter has control of all supply chain arrangements for livestock transport, management and slaughter.

3. Traceability through the supply chain: ensuring the exporter can trace all livestock through the supply chain and

4. Independent auditing: ensuring the supply chain in the importing country is independently audited.
The purpose of the LiveCorp research was to:-

* Identify all existing systems and resources being utilized to achieve ESCAS compliance and assess the strength and weakness of such systems
* Identify, review and document risk management and QA models in place in other industries and sectors
* Examine the cost of compliance with the current ESCAS framework
* Consider the relevance of an industry-initiated risk management and QA program or management solution; conformance with which would facilitate ESCAS compliance
* Make recommendations for the development of such a program

A competitive tender was held to ensure an independent consultancy to examine a range of issues including systems and resources used to achieve ESCAS compliance, costs of compliance, similar programs in other industries and the value of such a system. The resulting consultancy examined ten non-livestock export QA and/or risk management programs in detail. A further 17 programs, manuals, reports, guides and documents were also reviewed, along with processes, procedure and documentation of existing systems that could be transposed to the livestock export industry.

The final report recommended that a QA program, complemented by risk management assessment component be developed to help deliver best practice and achieve ESCAS compliance. Linking the two ensures that ESCAS is achieved and that a quality focus is furthered throughout the industry. The QA system must be independent of both industry and Government to avoid conflicts of interest. A vital part of the recommendations is third party certification. This approach will ensure conflicts of interest are avoided and help encourage international participation, creating a global opportunity, to improve animal welfare beyond Australian shores.

On the 30th October 2013, members of the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council endorsed the research report and agreed to the next phase of research which will deliver a design and implementation plan, timeline and costings.