Farmers losing confidence as government risks Middle Eastern gaffe

29 September 2023

In a letter to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, farming groups have expressed frustration and warned of irreversible harm to the agricultural sector and to Australia’s trade and diplomatic partnerships in the Middle East.

Calling on the Prime Minister and Minister Watt to reverse its policy on the phase-out of live sheep by sea, the groups said the ban was pointless, expensive, and disruptive. National Farmers’ Federation President, Fiona Simson said the ban risked upsetting Australia’s $11.1 billion trade partnerships in the Middle East. “Australia is working hard to diversify its trading partnerships, particularly for agricultural commodities. Middle Eastern countries are a critical and growing part of that.

“The message we’ve heard from these trading partners is that pulling the rug out from under their food supply will have broader impacts on our relationship. We saw that of course with Indonesia in 2011.

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“We’re worried that we’re sleepwalking into another diplomatic gaffe in the Middle East and the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. “They’re marching to the beat of the activists’ drum, and we need the Prime Minister to pull back and look at the bigger picture here before it’s too late.”

Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council CEO, Mark Harvey-Sutton echoed the comments to reverse the policy. “We have said since it was announced that this policy was bad and would be a red line for agriculture,” he said.

“It puts an activist agenda ahead of farmers and people working to support Australian agriculture and it has already created damage to our trading relationships with several countries who rely on us for food security.

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“The level of investment in Australia from foreign countries is underpinned by our ability to meet their needs for food. To damage longstanding relationships for the sake of crumbs from the activist's table smacks of short-term thinking. On the ground, Kojonup wool grower and sheep farmer Steve McGuire said that the policy was already undermining the ability to plan and was creating further stress at a time when low prices are already causing pain.

“We’re already witnessing the implosion of the sheep industry here. Livelihoods are being lost just due to the uncertainty. This isn’t a planned transition, it’s a socio-economic disaster.

“This policy is a net loss. No one will be better off: not the sheep, which have the best welfare standards in the world, not the industry, and certainly not farmers. “The Albanese Government needs to do the decent thing and reverse the policy immediately.”