Pakistan export sheep cleared – but still in limbo – National Rural News – Livestock – Sheep – Queensland Country Life

An interesting and not unexpected result.

 

INDEPENDENT test results have proven the Australian sheep exported to Pakistan by Wellard last month to be healthy and disease free.

But the industry will keep the market in voluntary suspension for an indeterminate period, regardless of what happens to the remaining 10,000 sheep.

A statement from Wellard last Friday said the blood samples – drawn from the sheep by an independent committee appointed by the Sindh High Court in Pakistan and tested at the world-renowned Pirbright Institute reference laboratory in England – proved the sheep were free of infectious diseases and posed no threat to human or animal health in Pakistan.

Wellard Managing Director Mauro Balzarini said the institute’s judgment was further and final endorsement of the health of the sheep.

Mr Balzarini said from the outset, Wellard, PK Livestock and the Australian government claimed the sheep were in fact healthy and fit for human consumption.

He said the Pirbright report “validates our belief and our efforts”.

“We refused to accept the culling process forced by the Sindh Livestock Department and have done everything in our power to ensure their welfare was protected after we were forcibly removed from caring for them,” he said.

The Sindh High Court is now considering the Pirbright report.

The Court has yet to make a decision, on an application by PK Livestock and Wellard to overturn the original cull order issued and enforced by the Sindh Livestock Department.

The sheep remain in the care of PK Livestock and Wellard pending the Sindh High Court decision, which was expected on Wednesday.

DAFF said it would provide further information once the final Court decision was made and can be verified through official channels.

Sheepmeat Council of Australia chief executive officer Ron Cullen said the industry had imposed a voluntary moratorium on live exports to Pakistan and Bahrain due to the recent controversy over the forced cull.

Mr Cullen said the moratorium’s timeline was indeterminate, with significant changes needing to be made around the Pakistan market before any more Australian sheep are sold there again.

“The Pakistan situation was an isolated incident and I don’t want to underplay it, because from the reports we’ve heard it was a horrendous situation, but it wasn’t related to our live export system or the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS),” he said.

“It was civil unrest and we’re talking to DAFF now about how to address that long-term.

“They’ve got an investigation underway into why ESCAS failed.

“The exporter self-reported a loss of control of the ESCAS supply chain which triggered an investigation and that shows ESCAS is working.

“But until that investigation is complete we’re not going to be able to comment or understand the full implication of where it may lead to now.”

Mr Cullen said until the Court ruled on a final decision, the fate of the remaining 10,000 sheep would also remain in limbo.

He said the court would either rule the sheep must be processed for human consumption or the controversial cull would continue, which Pakistani media reported as being brutal and inhumane.

But he said despite the Court’s ruling the Council wanted animal welfare to be “first and foremost” in considerations.

Mr Cullen said the exporters and importers were in control of the sheep again and looking after their health and welfare, after being marched off the premises at gunpoint by Pakistani authorities, when the situation first arose, leading to the enforced cull.

Council president Ian McColl said although industry had voluntarily suspended sheep exports into Pakistan and Bahrain, there’d been little or no activity in Pakistan for a considerable time.

“Wellard were looking at doing some business in that market, potentially long-term, but that won’t be happening now, until we get better assurances in place,” he said.

 

The Wellard shipment of 21,000 sheep first hit troubled waters after it was redirected from Bahrain to Pakistan last month.

Pakistani authorities seized control of the shipment and culled about 7600 sheep, amid uncertainty over their condition.

A court injunction was imposed to protect about 10,000 remaining sheep while independent authorities in England conducted the diagnostic analysis, to determine their exact health.

Bahrain quarantine officials rejected the sheep on quarantine grounds, reportedly due to the presence of scabby mouth disease – but testing on arrival in Pakistan cleared the sheep of any ill-health concerns.

SCA vice president and WA sheep producer Jeff Murray said the controversy had caused sheep saleyard prices to drop dramatically over the past two months, when supply to Middle East markets became insecure.

Mr Murray said the dramatic price slump was reflected right through the lamb market, with mutton and breeder sheep sales also down 50 per cent from last year’s prices.

“That’s a big loss for the industry,” he said.

“You can only sell sheep once so you can’t recover that money in the next year.”

Mr Murray conceded the Pakistan controversy was poorly timed for Australian sheep producers, especially in WA.

“Our cattle producers in the north are still wearing the impacts of the live cattle ban last year and now sheep producers are wearing the current problems of what’s happening in Pakistan,” he said.

via Pakistan export sheep cleared – but still in limbo – National Rural News – Livestock – Sheep – Queensland Country Life.

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