Monday, February 26, 2024

Exporters eye August for live trade reboot

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Lobby group urges farmers to make their voice heard in countering ‘ill-informed conceptions’.
Directors of the failed company – at least one of whom is back in the live export business – blame its financial challenges on the failure of livestock ship MV Al Kuwait to collect 12,000 head of cattle from New Zealand and deliver them to China.
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The live export industry is hopeful it will be open for business by August next year.

Shipping live animals by sea was halted by the previous Labour Government in April this year. This was set to cost rural communities an estimated $450 million a year.

Live Export New Zealand (LENZ) chair Mark Willis said it is clear from the new coalition government that plans are afoot to reverse the ban.

The question remains how soon that can happen.

Overturning the ban will require legislation to be passed. 

“There is work to be a done on the regulatory framework, referencing back to the industry Gold Standard.

He said the coalition government has “made some statements around animal welfare that are yet to be defined, but there is very little evidence of issues as live exports from NZ are conducted under very high animal welfare standards”.

LENZ was closely engaged with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) through the two-year transition period until the ban came into effect on April 30, 2023.

“We are ready to recommence discussions with MPI and would hope we can get an industry-government partnership-determined new regulatory system in place to move forward next year.

“August is our aspiration and we feel that is realistic for industry and the bureaucrats.

“It will be good timing for the age of 2023-born stock, to give industry lead-in time and for live exporters to formulate their plan around the design and implementation of new regulations to get up and running with their first shipments.”

Willis is confident there will be sufficient livestock available given the market has become more important than ever for NZ farmers battling ongoing financial challenges.

“I think it [August] is achievable and practical,” Willis said.

An economic impact study showed the net cost of the ban to farmers to be anywhere from $49,000 to $116,000 a year per farm, with up to 2900 farms nationwide involved in the live export trade.  

NZ’s live export trade was 70% in dairy cattle by sea to China.

So is China open for NZ to recommence trade?

“I can’t talk commercial aspects but I do get some commentary around what we have seen in this second half of 2023 putting live export trade on a similar platform with the softening of demand as across all other industries,” Willis said.

“But I have heard the outlook for 2024 is looking more positive. 

“The market fundamentals remain the same for live animals and I feel buoyed we have a good market going forward.   

“We have exported far and wide around the world and that could well be the situation again.”

Willis said the politicians have been very clear that the reverse of the ban is contingent on the support of mainstream NZ.

“We know it is reliant on creating a new and improved regulatory regime that ensures animal welfare to the standard NZ is wanting.

“We support this and have always supported this.”

He encouraged farmers to get involved.

“It is very important if we are to have a long-term sustainable industry that all in the supply chain are active and vocal,” he said.

“We have to get the facts out there, be active in convincing people and the politicians. The ban happened because of ill-informed conceptions and very vocal opposers and we need to counter that now with accurate fact.”

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