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Australian Senate Livestock Export Review

September 1, 2011

Broome, 1st September 2011
Stephen Meerwald

Wellard Rural Exports Pty Ltd


Opening Statement

Senators, thank you for the opportunity to address this review and to the Senate for allocating the time and resources to review this culturally, socially and economically vital, value added Australian export trade.

Your terms of reference are broad and have attracted over 400 submissions.

From the perspective of an Australian company with the largest investment specifically focused on the sustainable export of Australian livestock we have strong and considered opinions on every aspect of this trade. Our investments range from intellectual property and personnel to a feed mill, dedicated pre export quarantine facilities, specialised handling equipment, 11 farms covering in excess of 100,000 acres, purpose built state of the art livestock vessels and in market facilities.

In 2010 we exported 220,000 breeding, feeder and slaughter cattle and 635,000 sheep to markets around the world.

In all we have almost 400 million dollars invested in agricultural production and export and have taken a leading role in the livestock export sector through promoting excellence in every aspect of the trade. This is showcased foremost in our investment in the design and development of new vessels which embrace every available technology and more than 30 years of livestock shipping experience to provide a means of transport that provides safety and security for both crew and livestock. These vessels surpass every standard with the 2010 fleet additions of the Ocean Swagman and Ocean Outback bringing innovative dual propulsion and redundancy provisions to the trade for the first time. Ventilation on these vessels exceed minimum requirements by an average of 400% and these vessels are only the prelude to the next generation of vessels contracted for delivery in 2013 at a cost of USD 92 million per ship.

We have also pioneered transparency through numerous print, radio and film journalists undertaking voyages on loaded shipments and engaged with community leaders from all spectrums to undertake tours of our pre export facilities and vessels.

Observing the uninformed opinions that have been aired on issues related to the export of Australian livestock has been a frustration for everyone working in this industry. Mischievous at best and deceitful at worst the “facts” often quoted by some of those who would have the trade stopped can be exposed through your review for what they are.

Take for example the claim that between 30,000 and 40,000 Australian red meat processing jobs have been lost due the live export of Australian livestock. Quoting ABARE figures the total Australian livestock slaughter in 2010 was just over 35 million lambs, sheep and cattle. The most recent employment data in the red meat processing industry (2006/7) evidenced some 31000 full time jobs (or about 1100 animals processed for every full time job).

In 2010 the export of Australian sheep, cattle and goats totalled 3,850,000 head or the equivalent of 3500 full time jobs at the processing industry average of 1100 head detailed earlier.

Whilst significant this is a much lesser number of full time jobs than the number identified as being created by the trade, mostly in remote and regional Australia and as evidenced fully during the recent ban on trade with Indonesia.

Put simply the claim of the number of jobs lost to the trade is more than the 2007 total employment in the processing industry despite the export trade being just 11% of the number of animals processed in Australia.

We welcome your review and the opportunity it presents to allow the truth to be heard.


Background – Wellard Rural and Trading

Wellard is a world leader in the production and distribution of livestock and grain.

Its two largest subsidiaries are Wellard Rural Exports, Australia’s largest livestock exporter and ship owner, and Wellard Agri, a large mixed farming land owner and operator specialising in the production of grains, legumes and livestock.

Wellard Rural Exports has supplied quality dairy and beef cattle and sheep and goats to the world for more than 30 years, and its investment in the live export industry is without peer.  Based in Fremantle, the company’s operations cover every aspect of the export chain, including feed milling, livestock aggregation, road transport, feedlot facilities throughout Australia and modern shipping.

The company’s flagship carrier, the MV Ocean Drover (formerly the MV Becrux), is a purpose-built livestock carrier capable of carrying 75,000 sheep or 18,000 cattle from Australia to major markets around the globe.  She was commissioned in 2002.

The MV Ocean Shearer (formerly the MV Stella Deneb) can carry 125,000 sheep or 23,000 cattle, or a combination of both.

Two new, technologically advanced, purpose-built vessels, the MV Ocean Swagman and the MV Ocean Outback were launched in 2010.

Wellard Agri owns and operates eight farms covering 33,000 hectares across three agri-hubs. The two northern hubs are located at Dongara and Watheroo in Western Australia’s central midlands and one is located at Kojonup in the Great Southern region of WA.

The Dongara hub is home to The Grange, a 14,500 hectare property which is considered one of Western Australia’s blue chip farming properties.

The remaining landholding totals more than 18,000 hectares, of which 14,000 hectares is cropped to a variety of grains and legumes. The other 4000ha is devoted to sheep production, including the famous Hyfield Poll Merino stud at Kojonup. In addition, Wellard leases an additional 14,500ha for livestock and grain production.

Wellard Agri also has operations in the farm machinery sector, through management of the CLAAS Harvest Centres at Katanning and Esperance for the Landpower range of farm machinery.