JOBS: Live cattle trade costs jobs in Australia’s processing industry, meatworkers say.
CALLS for a cap on live cattle exports have been louder than ever in 2016 against a backdrop of tight cattle supply fuelling cutbacks across Australia’s meat processing sector.
Meatworkers are marking the five-year anniversary of the monumental suspension of trade with Indonesia by claiming the trade jeopardises jobs in Australia.
They argue that as the national herd sits at its lowest point in 23 years, the volume of live exports steadily increases, putting pressure on the number of cattle available to the local processing sector.
“For every additional head of cattle loaded onto ships bound for foreign markets more local jobs are lost,” said Grant Courtney, Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union.
Meatworkers questioned whether the federal government had ‘fallen to the narrow interests of an industry that contributes nothing to the broader community’.
Whether driven by the desire to protect jobs on home ground or by animal welfare concerns, arguments have been continually made since 2011 for a ban or cap on live trade.
Do any stack up?
Executive director at the Australian Farm Institute Mick Keogh says no.
“Globally the trade in live animals is rapidly increasing as agriculture trade barriers are reduced and nations become specialised in livestock production systems and integrated into multinational supply chains,” he said.
“For Australia to abandon live exports would simply hand major markets over to competitors, none of which have anywhere near equivalent animal welfare standards or programs.”
In fact, that has already happened with Australia’s reduced sheep exports.It would happen very quickly for live cattle exports if Australia closed down, Mr Keogh believes.
He points out that live exports are a very useful ‘market development’ tool that creates an entree to the processed meat market over time – witness the growth of Australian sheepmeat exports to the Middle East on the back of involvement in live sheep exports. In 2015, the value of livestock exports was around $1.6 billion.
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