AUSTRALIA'S live sheep export trade has been " "strangled" since a supposedly disease-ridden consignment was culled in Pakistan.
Sheep prices have plummeted by more than 30 per cent, exports have slowed to a crawl and farmers have lost their entire year's profit, The Australian reports.
Farmers in Western Australia, where up to 90 per cent of exports are sourced, have been worst hit, but sheepmeat producers across the country have felt the impact of lower prices, reduced demand and a loss of confidence in the industry.
Representatives from the peak livestock exporters body and the Sheepmeat Council of Australia will travel to the Middle East next week to reassure importers of their commitment to high-quality livestock exports and restore fractured relationships.
After the first round of sheep culled in Karachi were reportedly stabbed, clubbed and buried alive, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry imposed extra requirements on exporters to detail what they would do if a shipment was refused unloading.
Farmers and exporters said they were working with the department to minimise the risk of future rejections and get the industry back on its feet.
But they said the department was now taking much longer to process export permits and far fewer were being issued.
Digby Stretch, chairman of the West Australian Pastoralists and Graziers Association livestock committee and a Kojonup sheep farmer, said the price of export wethers had dropped from $95 before the crisis to $55 last week.
``The trade has been strangled,'' Mr Stretch said.
``On top of the price slash, there's also been a shortage of boats going, so people haven't been able to move their sheep out of the way. That sort of price taken off for people selling sheep now, that's just wiped their profits off for the year. We don't run on margins like that.''
Craig Stewart, who has a sheep farm near Toodyay, 85km northeast of Perth, recently had to sell a batch of merino lambs, merino hoggets and older ewes for a third less than usual and he held off on selling his wethers.
``If we'd got $30-$40 for those, we'd be lucky,'' Mr Stewart said.
``There are no active buyers in the market.''
West Australian Farmers meat section president Jeff Murray said the ill-fated Pakistan consignment had ``devastated the sheep industry and we're having a dry season, as well, so it's made it pretty hard for a lot of producers''.
Sheepmeat Council chief executive Ron Cullen said Bahrain had cancelled orders for processed sheep meat at the same time it rejected the 21,000 sheep from exporter Wellard Rural Exports, prompting demand across the Middle East to plummet.
Bahrain had said the sheep had common scabby mouth disease.
While the sheep later cleared Pakistani quarantine, the Sindh government then claimed they had salmonella and anthrax.
Following the first cull, importer P K Livestock won a court injunction against further culling.
Tests by Britain's Pirbright Institute found the sheep were fit for human consumption, and P K Livestock withdrew the court action.
But the Sindh Livestock Department moved in anyway late last week and culled the remaining sheep, stating it would be done humanely.
Read more at The Australian
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