IN THE NEWS: Minister demands stranded sheep exported

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IN THE NEWS: On JUL 31, 2018

The federal agriculture minister has demanded a live exporter "step up" and take 60,000 sheep currently stranded in a Perth feedlot to the Middle East to show the trade can be done properly.

The sheep are in limbo after the Department of Agriculture suspended the export licences of the company behind the disastrous Awassi Express shipment, Emanuel Exports, and a closely associated entity, EMS Rural Exports.

David Littleproud says he recently travelled to the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Israel to support the live export industry, and that effort "will come to nothing if no exporter steps up and takes the sheep" to prove it can be safely done during the northern summer, which peaks in August.

But there appear to be few options for Emanuel.

The company has had negotiations with other exporters, Wellard and Harmony Agriculture, but they could not agree on terms.

Wellard executive director Fred Troncone said in a statement that "due to a number of commercial, logistical and contractual reasons" the talks concluded.

"As would be expected, at the conclusion of those negotiations Wellard sought out alternative opportunities for its vessels. As a result, the Wellard ships suited to voyages to the Middle East are now committed on other routes until at least the end of September."

Another major player, Livestock Shipping Services, has voluntarily withdrawn from the northern summer trade and is instead focusing on South America.

Animals Australia threatened earlier this month to seek an injunction if the Department granted EMS an export licence, leaving the industry worried about trying service the Middle East.

"Let's talk straight. The current situation is the result of the alleged actions of an exporter," Mr Littleproud said in a statement on Tuesday.

"Exporters have made millions of dollars off sheep farmers. It's time for an exporter to step up. Farmers should not take the fall."

He also took aim at the Australian Livestock Exporters Council, saying its members needed to show "they haven't been taking us for mugs the whole time".

ALEC declined to comment.

WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan has been jeered for saying Emanuel needs to sell the sheep to local abattoirs, which would pay a lot less for the animals than livestock importers.

Federal Liberal MP Rick Wilson told a sheep farmer crisis meeting in rural WA on July 20 that Emanuel had "every intention" of getting the stranded sheep on a ship, and had 13 days left to "clear their name" and get their licence back.

With the festival of Eid approaching next month, Middle Eastern countries are said to be looking to other markets such as North Africa.

Footage from the Awassi Express in August last year showing thousands of sheep dead, dying and suffering in their own filth and extreme heat on their way to the Middle East sparked outrage when it was broadcast in April.

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