Australia’s live sheep ‘import’ trade ships 1.4 million head from Tasmania to Victoria
A STAGGERING number of sheep, up to 1.4 million in the past two years, have been “exported” live across Bass Strait from Tasmania to Victoria for slaughter and processing to mainland dinner plates, according to figures kept by farmers.
And there are concerns about the number of lambs being killed or injured during the transport.
Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association meat council chairman Chris Gunn said between 500,000 and 700,000 Tasmanian sheep sold each year to JBS Swift are being slaughtered in Victoria since the processor two years ago lost a Coles supply contract.
Mr Gunn said the loss of the Coles contract created a production line supply problem at a JBS Swift abattoir in Victoria, a shortfall fixed by shutting down the sheep processing line at the JBS Swift plant in Longford, Tasmania.
JBS Swift also last month closed its abattoir at Devonport, which processed 3,800 sheep each week, likely adding more livestock for transport to Victoria for slaughter.
Animal welfare concerns
Mr Gunn said that at the same time a number of pull-factors combine to make it more profitable, $15 per head more profitable, for a Tasmanian farmer sell live sheep for processing in Victoria.
More competition for abattoir stock in Victoria increases the price, the only other Tasmanian abattoir can’t process more stock and runs at a lower economic scale than mainland processors costing farmers more, and the federal government’s Freight Equalisation Scheme subsidises the transport of goods, including the seep, from Tasmania across Bass Strait through the busy Port of Melbourne.
Stock trailers pulled by prime movers collect the sheep from farms then travel to Tasmania’s north coast to await loading and shipping to Victoria, unloading and processing through the Port of Melbourne, and road transport again to an abattoir at Colac, 150km away.
“They are going into supermarkets around Australia, marketed as Tasmanian lamb,” Mr Gunn said.
Mr Gunn said the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association (TFGA) is concerned “one, is we are losing jobs out of the red meat processing industry in Tasmania.
“Two, is we are concerned that there is a nasty, or a lot of lambs getting seriously injured die during transportation and there’s an animal welfare downside.
“And three is, if Victoria or NSW build their stock number in the next few years and there is another drought, and we were in a drought situation at the same time too, then getting sheep off our farms to be processed could take a while.
“Even at the moment large numbers of lambs and mutton are being killed at the moment, and was a waiting list of up to a month for lambs to leave farmers’ property.
“Now that alright if you’ve got feed and it’s a normal season but if you are in a drought situation it’s a problem maintaining them.”
Drought de-stocking risk
Mr Gunn said the lack of processing in Tasmania was costing the state wealth as well as government consideration as sheep slaughtered in Victoria were counted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics as being from that state.
Mr Gunn said the TFGA want to see just one other processor start in Tasmania.
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