Booming gene trade could be more accessable for farmers

GROUP NEEDED: Glen Aplin cattle vet Ced Wise hopes to establish an industry body for semen and embryo exporters.
GROUP NEEDED: Glen Aplin cattle vet Ced Wise hopes to establish an industry body for semen and embryo exporters. Samantha Wantling

AUSTRALIA'S genetic exports could be worth big bucks, and this booming trade could soon be more accessible to farmers.

Granite Belt vet and bovine reproduction expert Ced Wise said livestock semen and embryo exports were worth many millions, but with no dedicated representative body for this trade, it was difficult to establish a viable trade.

Dr Wise, who has an export centre in Glen Aplin, and another in Rockhampton, said the "huge amount" of red tape burdening exporters was hindering the possibilities.

He said other countries' protocols, many of which he said were "not scientifically based" but were "really only trade barriers", posed the greatest challenges.

He said a dedicated body to represent for semen and embryo exporters was needed.

"(They could) look into these protocols and help (countries) rewrite protocols that... still present a minimal biosecurity risk," Dr Wise said. "We don't want to suggest we should be given the green light to send anything anywhere. We don't want to be spreading disease," he said.

"Semen and embryos are far safer than sending live exports. It's a very safe way of exporting genetics around the world."

The National Herd Improvement Association has commissioned an independent study on representative options, after receiving $250,000 in federal funding.

Dr Wise said the report was expected to be completed within about six weeks.

"I've been lobbying for this money for a long time," he said.

Dr Wise said the dedicated group could also operate as a marketing body, connecting Australian exporters and overseas buyers.

He said Australia's genetic exports for beef alone could be worth $150million.

Combined with sheep and dairy, the exports could be worth $300million.

"I think there's great potential for our northern industry to do a lot more in exports than they currently are," Wise said.

He said the growth of exports would not stifle live exports, but would work as a complimentary trade.

"I'm not, for one moment, saying live animal trade should not exist," Dr Wise said.

"We definitely need that as well. The two should go hand in hand."

He said there was demand for high-quality Australian beef genetics in South America, Mexico, South Africa, and more recently the United States.

He said there was also a "big volume, low value" demand in South-East Asia.

Topics:  farming genetics

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