Cattle Producers Australia (CPA) was alarmed to hear of the recent announcement at Red Meat 2018 in Canberra by MLA Andrew McCallum that an application had been made by the US to import fresh (chilled and frozen) beef product into Australia and added that Japan is already importing some meat products into Australia.
CPA recognises the inherent dangers to Australian beef producers if the approval of fresh (chilled and frozen beef) imports into Australia is promoted and acted upon.
Dr Paul Wright, chair of CPA said, A 2013 Senate Inquiry into Beef Imports recommended that beef and beef products should not be imported from any country that has reported any cases of Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or has cross-border trade with an adjoining country which has reported any cases of BSE.
The US has reported four cases of BSE since 2003 with the most recent case being reported in 2012 and Japan suffered an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in 2010.
Dr Wright said, “Australia simply cannot risk having our exemplary biosecurity record turned upside down and our industry decimated by a contamination of either FMD or BSE. Since we export over 75% of beef the damage would be devastating.”
According to the Department of Agriculture’s Final Report into imports of Fresh (Chilled or frozen) Beef and Beef Products from Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United States and Vanuatu, chilled or frozen beef will be permitted entry subject to compliance with specified risk management measures.
Interestingly, when submissions were called for by Government very few submissions were given on biosecurity and animal health issues and according to a Beef Central Article in 2017 the Red Meat Advisory Council (RMAC) put in a submission on behalf of the red meat industry which has not been made public.
Early last year media articles reported Don Mackay, Chair of RMAC stating, in direct response to the Federal Government’s draft review giving conditional approval to import bids, that industry could not directly oppose bids from the US and other countries exporting chilled and frozen beef to Australia saying, ‘trade is a two-way street’.
Mr Wright said, “This is a clear example for the need for each Peak Industry Council that makes up RMAC to be financially robust and represent their industry participants properly so that levy payers can be confidant that they have ownership of their organisation and that their organisation is representing them.”
Dr Wright noted that “considering the total value of imports from the US to Australia in 2017 was over $31 Billion whilst our exports to the US totalled $12 Billion, there really shouldn’t be a requirement for a ‘two-way street’ for beef products, given the obvious biosecurity risk to Australia and the absence of a credible traceback system in the source countries.”
CPA agrees with Mr Bill Heffernan’s comments in the Rural Press and Queensland Country Life article where he said, “Our entire prosperity in beef hangs on our clean, green reputation and we need to hold onto that at all costs.”
Mr Heffernan, who is renowned for his advocacy during his years as a Liberal senator on maintaining strict biosecurity protocols to protect Australian producers, which at times saw him in very dramatic situations such as standing over dumped Brazilian meat at a rural NSW tip, believes, however, that the beef industry should not be giving any support to more imported beef in the name of reciprocal access.
The benefits simply don’t warrant the risks, according to Mr Heffernan.
Dr Wright who has witnessed first-hand the carnage an outbreak of FMD can cause when he undertook two tours of duty to the UK to assist with the control of FMD in 2001 agrees with Mr Heffernan wholeheartedly saying that “On no account should these products be permitted to enter Australia”.
A glimmer of hope on this potentially industry threatening development springs from CPA enquires with the Australian Department of Agriculture revealing that beef imports into Australia from America have been suspended indefinitely pending a formal review, with an Import Risk Analysis (IRS) initiated by the American Government.
CPA is continuing its investigation into this vital issue for Australia’s beef industry and hopes to be in a position to provide more information shortly.