Al Mawashi, which is the biggest importer of Australian sheep, revealed that it was concerned about the future of importing Australian sheep, following evidence of animal welfare standards in the Middle East region being breached.
Trade tensions over sheep exports between Australia and the Middle East began after video footage emerged showing sheep being exported in humid conditions, resulting in 2,400 deaths from heat stress.
The Kuwait business has been importing Australian sheep for four decades and wants the trade relation to continue, but said that, given the sense of threat to livestock imports, it had no choice but to find other sources.
Al Mawashi is an import customer for the Australian exporter at the centre of the alleged welfare breaches, Emanuel Exports, which later apologised to producers and the community in its handling of the transit.
Al Mawashi CEO Osama Boodai said livestock trade was a matter of national food security for countries in the Gulf.
“I completely understand why there is outrage at the footage broadcast last month. Those conditions are not acceptable to any of us, but that doesn’t represent what normally happens on board,” said Boodai.
“To ignore footage or other evidence of what a livestock journey normally looks like means people are judging us without having all the facts in front of them. Al Mawashi takes animal welfare very seriously and we have a proud record in terms of the livestock in our care.”
Boodai added that he wanted to reassure Australia of its exports and stated that the company was working hard and investing millions of dollars to reduce mortalities and welfare risks across the supply chain.
“In the past five years, Al Mawashi has conducted 78 voyages from Australia to the Arabian Gulf on our own vessels with an average mortality rate of less than 0.6%,” Boodai explained. “In 2017, the mortality rate in our Kuwait feedlot – which is the largest covered feedlot in the world with a capacity of 250,000 sheep – was 0.19%.”
Although the Australian Government has not announced any trade ban on exports of sheep to the Middle East, it has stated that its sheep exports are set for a ‘significant change’ after introducing the McCarthy Review yesterday (17 May).
The McCarthy Review is a list of recommendations for traders to implement improved conditions for sheep or risk facing heavy penalties.