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Australian sheep imports resume.

A CONSIGNMENT of Australian livestock is on its way to Bahrain for the first time since authorities Down Under banned exports more than a year-and-a-half ago.

Bahrain was blacklisted after it turned away a shipment of 21,000 Australian sheep in August 2012, violating the terms of a trade agreement.

However, after lengthy negotiations Australian meat will again be on the menu for thousands of households who rely on government-subsidised meat imported by the Bahrain Livestock Company (BLC).

"The sheep were loaded on to the ship on Monday late in the evening and it takes around 20 days for the ship to get here, but that is depending on the weather," said BLC chairman Ibrahim Zainal.

"We haven't been importing from Djibouti for the last six weeks and we will not in the future as it is much more expensive.

"Since this is a matter of government subsidies, the Finance Ministry has decided it is a better option to lower the amount of subsidies."

The shipment now underway is the first of many that will see 125,000 sheep delivered to Bahrain between April and May.

Australia banned livestock exports to Bahrain after the shipment of 21,000 sheep was prevented from unloading in August 2012 due to health concerns.

The shipment was later rejected by Qatar, meaning the sheep spent much longer at sea than they were supposed to, and the animals were reportedly subjected to inhumane treatment when they were finally accepted in Pakistan.

However, Bahrain has not only managed to resume imports of Australian livestock - but is also paying a lower price than it was in 2012.

The BLC has re-certified its feed lot and slaughterhouse in accordance with Australian standards and Mr Zainal said Bahrain would make substantial savings. Bahrain turned to Somalia for livestock when the Australian ban was imposed, but was paying around 70pc more per kilo.

A Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry official told the GDN that "nothing has been left to chance" in relation to this first consignment.

"Two veterinary surgeons from our ministry were sent to Australia to fully inspect the consignment before it got loaded," said the official.

"Everything has been cleared and the sheep have been loaded on to the ship already.

"This consignment signifies the end of the negotiations and a return to the ways things were.

"Under the new agreement, once the sheep arrive we have to follow GCC quarantine regulations and inspect them on arrival.

"This is good news for Bahrain."

Australia's Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce inspected the loading operations at Fremantle, Australia, and said it was unlikely Bahrain would reject sheep from Down Under again.

"We do have contingencies for offloads to deal with that issue and we have agreements in place with Bahrain that say that will be highly unlikely," Mr Joyce said in an interview with ABC News.

"It's extremely important we get this trade going.

"This trade is vitally important for people in south-west Western Australia."

Mr Joyce will travel to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait next week to hold trade talks.

ahmed@gdn.com.bh

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Apr 2, 2014
Words:531
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