An export shipment of 90 stud Merino and Dohne rams, en route to Russia in time for the breeding season, has become embroiled in a quarantine protocol crack down.
The shipment, which was sourced from a number of leading studs across eastern Australia and is reportedly worth more than $A500,000, was booked to fly out of Australia in late September.
But Melbourne-based exporter Neil Kermeen, Rangedale Trading, who is handling the deal, claims a last-minute decision by Australian quarantine officials that they could no longer operate on short-term heath protocols was preventing the rams being certified for export.
And with the rams needed by the end of October to join to ewes and requiring 30 days in quarantine in Russia, further delays could jeopardise the deal.
In the past Mr Kermeen said the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) had been happy to formulate the type of tests needed and certification required according to current Russian import protocols – a system he said had “worked quite well in the past with never any hiccups”.
However after the protocol was sent and the rams entered quarantine, Mr Kermeen claimed AQIS had notified them that it could no longer act on a year-by-year basis and wanted a new long-term health protocol put in place and officially signed off by both parties before the shipment left.
As late as last Friday, the Chief Veterinary Officer in Russia, after strong lobbying by the Russian buyer and many others, sent a letter which they believed satisfied the Australian quarantine position.
However he claimed AQIS had informed them there were minor points that were not clear to AQIS and they now need to go back through diplomatic channels to get them clarified and signed off.
Mr Kermeen said he is extremely concerned at how long this new round of negotiation will take.
Speaking from Russia on Wednesday, he said the Russians were very unhappy about AQIS's “pedantic approach” as they felt the first set of documents they provided were workable (as they had been in other years).
Nor did they like being pushed by AQIS especially to quickly sign off on something that AQIS have had several years to put in place given the last shipment was made in 2007, he said.
Mr Kermeen said the Russian buyer was currently considering his position.
The rams will be rendered useless to them this year if they are not shipped quickly.
And in a matter of weeks they are threatening to bring their vet home from Australia thereby effectively pulling out of the contract as the quarantine and blood tests cannot be carried out without their vet being present to supervise these events.
Mr Kermeen said if the contract was cancelled, the rams would be left in limbo.
They wouldn’t be allowed to go back to their respective studs because of the health status and they can't go forward because of the blood tests not being allowed to proceed.
A spokesman from the Department of Agriculture confirmed that no protocol existed between Australia and Russia for the export of sheep and goats and that AQIS considered any proposed export on a case-by-case basis.
The spokesman said the notice of intent to export 90 sheep and one goat to Russia had been submitted on September 3 however the export conditions provided were unable to be certified.
They said Biosecurity Australia had written to the Russian Veterinary Authority on September 9 suggesting appropriate certification conditions that would allow the animals to be exported to which Russian authorities responded a month later with their own revised health certificate.
The spokesman said a delegation from the Department of Agriculture was currently in Moscow talking to Russian authorities and they hoped to finalise the certification.
The consignment is currently located in pre-quarantine lock-down at the Nar Nar Goon Quarantine station, east of Melbourne.
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