A landmark compliance program, designed to strengthen live animal exporters’ oversight of sheep, buffalo, goats and cattle sent overseas for slaughter, has been placed on hold by industry.
- LGAP is the live export industry’s flagship program to improve oversight of animal welfare
- A new company, AniMark was set up in 2018 to commercialise the system for the sector
- Importers are yet to adopt the program, with industry leader ALEC citing pandemic-related implementation troubles
The Livestock Global Assurance Program (LGAP) has been described as a world-first audit and assessment program for livestock exports, with increased auditing and monitoring scrutiny as livestock move through feedlots and abattoirs.
But the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council (ALEC) decided last week to suspend the program, citing COVID-19 travel risks disrupting the industry’s plans for roll-out in nations like Indonesia, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia.
Developer AniMark’s CEO Eliot Forbes said negotiations were ongoing following the decision to pause LGAP, which is yet to sign up any overseas lot feeders or processors.
“It’s fully operational and available, we’ve got an approved government arrangement, but exporters have expressed their concern about the pandemic’s impact on adopting LGAP in markets,” he said.
Dr Forbes said the program was ready in all launch markets as of October 2020 and was last month fully approved by the Australian Government for use by exporters to prove their compliance with welfare laws.
“There was a full regulatory approval from the Department of Agriculture a few weeks ago, we’ve done test audits in Vietnam earlier this year, and everything’s fully operational,” he said.
Following the development of LGAP, a separate company, AniMark, was established in 2018 to commercialise the scheme, funded by an $8.3 million federal government grant — of which AniMark received $7.3 million.
Industry seeks alternative
Chief executive of ALEC, Mark Harvey-Sutton, said it was too hard and risky to roll the program out under present conditions.
“It really does need extension staff in order to be implemented, and at the moment, that’s not possible for the next 12 to 18 months,” he said.
The decision by ALEC comes at a time of severe financial stress for many exporters dealing with high cattle prices and shipping fees, exemplified by the collapse of Darwin-based NACC in early June.
A report later that month on the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) by Australia’s Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports, Ross Carter, found that while ESCAS had been successful, outdated technology meant export applications from industry could be inaccurate in some cases.
The report also found that leakage from the supply chain remained a problem, which was a risk to livestock welfare and recommended further animal tracing technology — similar to that promised under LGAP as a third-party provider of ESCAS.
Mr Harvey-Sutton said that exporters recognised the importance of the report and would improve practices under the existing ESCAS system.
“We acknowledge there are areas of ESCAS that need improvement, which is why we’ve committed to working with the Department to get improvements happening.”
No date for re-start
Mr Harvey-Sutton said with the global situation uncertain, a date for recommencing LGAP was yet to be set.
“It needs to be a partnership between importers and exporters, so setting a date now is premature,” he said.
ALEC contends that about $4 million of the funding provided for LGAP remains unspent and available for implementation.
“The key to having LGAP, is that it’s a comprehensive program and that’s what we need to roll out,” Mr Harvey-Sutton said.
“While we can look to areas of it to be put into supply chains, we can’t implement the program, and that’s what we need to focus on.”