AROUND 275,000 head of cattle will remain stranded in Australia, unable to be exported, despite federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig announcing the re-opening of the live trade to Indonesia almost a month ago.
“A whole new raft of issues are now playing out for our beleaguered cattle industry, with mounting pressures on producers and ancillary businesses across northern Australia,” Senator Scullion said ahead of a Senate Committee hearing into live exports at the Darwin Convention Centre this Thursday.
“Adding callous disregard to the financial and emotional injury many northern Australians have endured with no end in sight, the government has turned its back on them with just one junior Labor Senator bothering to go to Darwin to hear first-hand from affected cattlemen, live exporters, transport operators, heli-musterers and other businesses.
“It has been two months since the Minister’s blanket ban ground the live cattle trade to a complete halt during its peak export season. Since the Minister re-opened the trade four weeks ago, not a single beast has been exported to Indonesia.
“Despite some limited exports expected shortly, around 275,000 head of cattle will not make it to market before the coming wet season, which begs the question ‘what to do with them?’
“Some may try other live markets but the reality is those export quotas are already at capacity, leaving many to eye the southern Australian market.
“The problem for producers is many will have multi-million dollar loans based on the $2 per kilo price they would expect to get from the Indonesian market. Selling northern cattle into our southern domestic markets will fetch significantly less – some suggesting around $1.40.
“When you factor in the added cost of transporting cattle north to south by truck over 2,000 kilometers, the losses keep compounding. Many beasts would be deemed incapable of making the long-haul journey and would need to be destroyed instead. Either way, it’s a diabolical position for cattle producers.
“The Gillard government simply has not fathomed that most ancillary businesses relying on the live trade run week-to-week. Without any cash-flow for two months, they are sinking deeper into debt. I’m talking about the tyre stores and the transport businesses. Even roadhouses and all other businesses that have done no business since the Minister shut down the trade.
“Making matters worse the government’s much-touted $25,000 assistance measures are not available to these businesses. There is a requirement for them to prove they rely on the live trade for their income before qualifying.
“In reality, there is no way most can demonstrate that. They rely on opportunistic business, so all they know is that the trucks have stopped coming and business is crook. They have been wrapped in red tape and left by the side of the road by a government out-of-touch with their plight.”
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