Qatar Live exports

Posted by on Jul 3, 2013

Qatar

Live Export of Australian Sheep and Cattle.

Many people asked me before I am embarked on my round the world trip of agriculture, what I was likely to see, by far the most asked about issues was ‘will you see any live export?’. This is partly because I am a beef producer and I have a vested interest in the success of live export for our business, so it seemed a logical progression for them that I would be interested in live export, it also brought home to me the value that producers put on the live export market, and their hopes and fears about what is really happening outside of Australia in terms of animal welfare, and the ESCAS system, which was brought in to ensure that correct procedures in terms of animal welfare are adhered to from point of transit in Australia, right through transportation and right to the point of slaughter.

I have supported live export, and believed from my own research and talking with people that the standards of ESCAS where acceptable, and that yes it was being implemented. However with that in mind it was still with some reservations that I stepped off the plane in Qatar. ‘What would I really find? Would it be acceptable to my standards? Would I as an animal carer and owner be satisfied that Australian Sheep and Cattle were actually being treated to my satisfaction.

When the trade to Indonesia was unreasonably banned 2 years ago, many producers who did not sell to the live trade sector, where of the opinion that this won’t effect us, we don’t sell to those markets. It wasn’t until early this year, with the store market in freefall, a raging drought in extensive areas of Queensland, and the Northern Territory, and the increase of cattle numbers due directly to the reduced quota to Indonesia did the full affect of the decision to ban exports to Indonesia come into play. It’s only now that the beef industry is fully aware of the importance of all our markets including live export.

After a briefing from MLA based in the region, regarding markets, market access, and the potential opportunity in the region we headed out to some local Doha supermarkets.

A modern supermarket, a huge array of products and almost all of it imported from one country or another, Australian Lamb and beef featured alongside its competitors from New Zealand, Sudan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and many, many others. Some of it comes in chilled, but most of it is imported through live trade. No other country except Australia is doing anything towards animal welfare in the region. Australia is the only country that requires a standard of animal welfare throughout the supply chain.

Off to Mawashi, that’s where 98% of sheep and cattle from Australia are slaughtered for Qatar.

We had a full tour of the facilities, from where the sheep and cattle are held prior to slaughter, and right through the abattoirs, including the kill floor. Mawashi were incredibly open and we talked widely about their attitude towards the ESCAS systems, the issues, and the wins they have had with attitudes towards the system.

At first the local population had difficulty understanding why they couldn’t take their Aussie sheep home to slaughter in the backyard, but now as education and awareness has improved, people are generally happy to receive their Aussie meat that they love and know, from an approved abattoir.

Meat and Livestock Australia are doing a great job helping the locals with welfare standards and providing expertise where required. I was satisfied with the standards that I saw and how the sheep and cattle are slaughtered. In many ways they are being asked to perform at a higher standard than Australian farmers, in other ways there is always room for improvement. The people working with the animals are very aware of the ESCAS system and ongoing training regarding animal welfare is continual, it was very reassuring to see local cattle being slaughtered the same way as the Australian, and sheep were the same. It is clear that Australia’s decision to stay involved in animal welfare in the region, has resulted in improved conditions for local animals as well.

Food security at all costs was really brought home to us in the Middle East, something we don’t think about. It’s not at all about making money, its about ensuring supply to their people during times of conflict, there has been huge investment in this area, it is a hard concept to understand initially, especially when your background is just staying afloat and the high risks associated with the agricultural sector in Australia, here in Qatar, food is still a need, a necessity, and its importance is beyond price.

Qatar is not what I expected, Doha is an amazing city with so much going on, and a high standard of living. Hope to get back there sometime soon.

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