The NT Cattlemen’s Association’s (NTCA) outgoing president has told hundreds of cattle producers at the organisation’s annual conference that Canberra is regulating live exports “into oblivion”.
- A cattle producer and former chief of the NTCA warns live export will be “regulated into oblivion”
- The new chief executive and president for the NTCA have taken up their roles
- Producers are experiencing widespread rain across the NT and good cattle prices
Speaking in Alice Springs at the NTCA’s 36th annual conference, Chris Nott said recent changes to the Federal Department of Agriculture’s cost recovery program for regulating the live export industry would cut profits for the entire industry.
“We are looking down the barrel of regulation costing in the vicinity of $100 per head,” Mr Nott said.
“I don’t think that’s reasonable.
“We have built up trade relationships over 30 years that must be respected.
“We have a neighbour on our doorstep, closer to us than the bureaucrats in Canberra are, who need our cattle right now to feed themselves during a pandemic.
“We have friends and family that rely on this industry.
Mortalities stable despite increased regulation
Mr Nott said the Federal Department of Agriculture had conducted seven reviews of live exports, producing more than 170 recommendations for reform over the past few years.
“From the recommendations in the Moss Review the department has established more than 10 working groups, committees, and forums, in addition to the Animal Welfare Branch, the Office of Principal Regulatory Officer, and the Office of the Independent Inspector-General,” he said.
Despite the increased regulation from the department, Mr Nott said cattle mortalities on live export boats remained very low.
“Mortalities on [short haul live export cattle] boats prior to all these groups and committees [being established] were 0.1 per cent — and they are still 0.1 per cent,” he said.
Mr Nott said Agriculture Minister David Littleproud must “understand that these reforms need to be paid for, and that costs put onto the exports are ultimately going to come out of our pocket”.
“He needs to ask himself if [cattle] producers in the Northern Territory should be paying for reforms that all started to fix an issue on a live export boat leaving Western Australia carrying sheep,” he said.
New president, new chief executive
This week saw a changing of the guard of the NTCA’s leadership, with a new president and a new chief executive starting in their roles.
David Connolly, the general manager of the Tipperary group of stations near Adelaide River, was elected president at the NTCA annual general meeting on Thursday.
Mr Connolly is also chair of a group of farmers from the NT and Western Australia that committed to building a cotton gin near Katherine to provide a local processing facility for the Top End’s fledgling cotton industry.
This week also saw Will Evans taking over as chief executive, three months after his predecessor Ashley Manicaros was sacked by the board in December 2020.
On Wednesday, Mr Manicaros launched legal action against the NTCA and former president Chris Nott, claiming he was unfairly dismissed over his political opinions.
Mr Evans comes to the NTCA after heading the NT Livestock Exporters’ Association for almost three years, previously he worked for the Cattle Council of Australia.
Optimistic outlook for industry
Cattle producers across Australia are currently enjoying record-breaking prices, and the Northern Territory is no exception.
Feeder steers ex-Darwin to Indonesia are fetching around $4.30 per kilogram, while the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) this week hit 887.5 cents/kg.
Mr Connolly told ABC Rural the immediate future for NT cattle producers is, overall, very positive.
“It’s a very optimistic outlook for the cattle industry with prices and feed,” he said.
“I do caution that we need to make sure we don’t price ourselves out of the market — which cattle producers can’t directly influence — because the Australian cattle market is based on supply and demand.
“We have to be mindful of our customer, especially in the live export market.
But Mr Connolly echoed Mr Nott’s concerns over rising costs for live exporters.
“Costs can’t flow up the chain to our customers such as in Vietnam or Indonesia, or wherever government may expect costs to be pushed up the chain,” Mr Connolly said.
Widespread rain across most of NT
As cattle producers gathered in Alice Springs for the NTCA’s annual conference, the region is experiencing one of its wettest summers in a decade.
Colleen Costello received over 100mm of rain over the past week at her property, New Crown Station, south-east of Alice Springs.
“That was probably our first good rain we’ve had in about three years, so its been fantastic,” she said.
“The best thing is that [the rain] has been so widespread, everyone has got some.
In the Top End, the wet season has largely delivered for most regions after two tough seasons, with only parts of the Barkly missing out on heavy rains.