Farmers say they face devastation over delays in exports after 10,000 cattle have been blocked - in addition to 200,000 sheep - amid animal health concerns.

The Federal Government confirmed yesterday approvals were pending to export 10,000 cattle and two shipments of WA sheep from Fremantle.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has delayed export permits as it tries to clarify diplomatic agreements which require Persian Gulf states to take Australian animals ashore even if there are fears some are diseased.

The temporary halt comes after Bahrain's rejection of live sheep from Australia amid disease concerns and the possible cull of more than 21,000 of the sheep after they were moved to Pakistan.

Karachi's top administration official Roshan Ali Shaikh said this week the sheep would be destroyed after testing positive for salmonella and actinomyces, but DAFF said there was conflicting reports about the cull.

DAFF said last night the sheep were in feedlots in Karachi but it admitted it needed "to confirm information relating to the culling and to resolve the matter". It said it and the Australian High Commission in Pakistan were working with local authorities, the Pakistani importer and Perth-based Wellard Rural Exports. "It is difficult to gain reliable information from Pakistan at the moment," it said.

"The Australian chief veterinary officer has also contacted his counterpart in Pakistan to clarify the situation and seek a resolution."

A DAFF spokesman said applications for four shipments to the Middle East involving 250,000 sheep and more than 10,000 cattle from WA and South Australia were being assessed.

"DAFF understands the live animal export trade is an important one for WA, that's why DAFF continues to work with exporters to facilitate the issuing of export permits," he said.

"In light of recent experiences in the Middle East, DAFF has sought assurances from exporters about measures they plan to take to reduce the risks of consignments being refused permission to unload."

The Pastoralists and Graziers Association and the WA Farmers Federation expressed concern over the long-term impact on WA sheep and cattle exports.

Stock agents say sheep meat prices have dropped about 70 per cent in five weeks and blamed uncertainty in WA's $266 million live sheep trade.

Australian Live Exporters Council chief executive Alison Penfold said pain would be felt throughout the supply chain from exporters to truck drivers and farmers.

With AAP

The West Australian

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