Australian cattle firms banned from exporting to Vietnam

3 Australian exporters get the axe following brutal images of animal cruelty in Vietnam.

After video footage emerged last month of Australian cattle being bludgeoned to death in Vietnamese abattoirs, Australia’s Department of Agriculture has suspended trade at three exporters.

The department has banned two unnamed Australian exporters and an unapproved facility under Australia’s Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) rules from supplying cattle to Vietnam.

ESCAS is designed to ensure that exported Australian livestock are handled in accordance with international animal welfare standards and to provide a mechanism to deal with animal welfare issues when they occur.

Additional conditions have also been placed on four exporters including extra monitoring and supervision by in-market staff. A statement published by the Agriculture Department said it was conducting exporter control and traceability audits for all eight exporters with supply chains in Vietnam, which are due to be finalized by the end of this month.

“The investigation already is revealing fatal flaws in the traceability system,” Animals Australia chief investigator Lyn White told Sky News Australia. “Until these can be rectified and the industry can declare all of their supply chains are secure, they should themselves be suspending the trade to Vietnam.”

In mid-June, Australia suspended livestock supplies to 18 abattoirs and feedlots in Vietnam pending an investigation into alleged animal cruelty, the Australian Embassy told VnExpress International.

In the wake of the suspension, Vietnamese authorities have been looking at other sources of cattle imports, mostly from South American countries, in a bid to reduce the possible impact on Vietnam’s livestock supply.

Tong Xuan Chinh, deputy director of the Department of Livestock under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, told Vietnam News Agency the suspension is unlikely to affect Vietnamese companies much at the moment because Vietnam can still import animals from other sources.

However, if it continues, it will have serious consequences for companies such as Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) Joint-Stock Company, which have invested heavily in feedlots. Vietnam’s cattle herd is currently not big enough to meet local demand, Chinh said.

Other Vietnamese importers of Australian livestock such as Vissan Company Ltd, a domestic meat processor and supplier, and Trung Dong Co Ltd weren’t immediately available for comment.

According to the Meat & Livestock Australia Limited, a producer-owned company that provides domestic livestock-related services, Vietnam was the second largest live cattle importer of Australia in the 2014-2015 fiscal year, shipping in 309,505 heads valued at AU$328 million.

Experts have been expressing concerns over domestic breeding when Vietnam joins the Trans-Pacific Partnership as import tariffs on animal feed, veterinary medicine and livestock will be cut.

Over the last seven years the number of cattle has fallen by 25 percent and the buffalo herd has dropped 13 percent, reported Vietnam’s General Statistics Office. The country has approximately six million beef cattle at the moment and consumes about 3,000 per day.

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