Industry estimates temporary ban on livestock exports cost 'in excess of $10 million'

The Government's temporary ban on live cattle exports following the sinking of a livestock carrier in September cost the industry "in excess of $10 million", according to the Animal Genetics Trade Association. 

The Ministry for Primary Industries [MPI] put the ban in place after the Gulf Livestock 1 disappeared in a typhoon off the coast of Japan with 43 crew onboard, including two New Zealanders. 

The vessel had left Napier in August bound for China with almost 6000 cattle.

As well as suspending consideration of cattle livestock exports, MPI also ordered an independent review of the practice by Mike Heron QC.

On Friday, Heron's report was released and cattle exports were allowed to resume for a conditional prohibition period of between October 24 and November 30.

During that period, MPI has the discretion to consider applications for Animal Welfare Export Certification (AWEC), and only grant certification if all requirements are met.

The new rules include restricting stocking density on vessels to 90 percent, increasing voyaging reporting and increasing minimum fodder requirements.

Around 24,000 cows were left in limbo when the Government introduced the temporary ban, awaiting their fate in pre-export quarantine. The conditional prohibition period gives more certainty to those animals - which would likely have been slaughtered if the ban was extended - as well as to the sector in general.

On Tuesday, David Hayman, spokesperson for Animal Genetics Trade Association, told RNZ the temporary ban was estimated to have cost the industry "well in excess of $10 million".

"And then there's a flow-on effect to the trade, some orders potentially cancelled or lost."

He also said while the association had not yet put a figure on those extra flow-on costs, they would be assessed in time.

Hayman also pointed out that although the review ordered a number of changes to live export practices, it also found the systems currently in place to be in general "robust", something farmers and exports could be proud of, he said.

"It's important to note that the breeding stock export sector has been operating at a high level of competence and the report acknowledges that," Hayman told RNZ.

Animal rights groups have long called for live cattle exports to be banned outright, with SAFE saying the changes recommended by the Heron review were merely "tinkering around the edges".

Last year the Government began a broader review into the practice of live exports, though a decision has been held up due to COVID-19.