Beef processing capacity ‘majorly impacted’ by Queensland and NSW floods

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Adam PoulsenCountryman
A farm house surrounded by floodwaters at Yandina, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
Camera IconA farm house surrounded by floodwaters at Yandina, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Credit: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Queensland’s beef processing golden triangle has been “majorly impacted” by devastating flooding, with abattoirs inundated and staff and livestock unable to reach worksites.

Heavy rains have lashed south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales in recent days, flooding entire communities and killing 13 people.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said 10 meat processing facilities across both States had been forced to temporarily shut down, with another “two or three” operating at reduced capacity.

According to the Australian Meat Industry Council, entire abattoirs and work sites are under water, with workers and livestock unable to gain access.

“At this stage, we as an industry are still assessing the short-term damage as well as the medium to long-term impacts to processing capacity, infrastructure damage, insurance issues, and access to workforce and livestock,” AMIC chief executive Patrick Hutchinson said.

“The severity of impact at this stage has been varied, from loss of processing days through to extensive damage to major processing and supply infrastructure.

“The resilience of our sector, which underpins livestock farming, and farmers, in this country, has once again taken a hit.

“It is important not to underestimate the huge impact this has on Australian farmers, producers, and processors.

“The whole post-farmgate meat supply chain is wondering how much more it can take.”

Water floods land and buildings near Gympie, north of Brisbane.
Camera IconWater floods land and buildings near Gympie, north of Brisbane. Credit: Queensland Fire and Emergency Services/Supplied

Mr Hutchinson thanked Mr Littleproud and Queensland Agriculture Minister Mark Furner for swiftly offering assistance to impacted businesses.

But he said the full extent of damage must be assessed before it could be determined what help was needed.

“The affected businesses and the Australian meat industry is very thankful for the offers of support from government, as well as the offers of support from our industry partners, however at this stage we need to assess the damage first before we can talk about what assistance is required,” Mr Hutchinson said.

Mr Littleproud told ABC radio on Wednesday that the Federal Government was trying to work with the processing sector “as quickly as we can” to assess the extent of damage to infrastructure.

“(We are) trying to get them up as quickly as we can, because that’s obviously exacerbated by supply chain constraints as well,” he said.

With floodwaters yet to recede in many areas, the extent of stock losses is not yet known.

“Those assessments get made by state governments, and they’re on the ground as we speak, and they can only do that once the waters abate, and it’s safe for people to get close and be able to talk to farmers,” Mr Littleproud said.

“That’s one of the challenges we’ve had.”

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud.
Camera IconFederal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud. Credit: Tori O'Connor/Kalgoorlie Miner

Mr Littleproud said the impact on the beef processing sector would be “a short term problem,” and hinted it would not necessarily lead to higher prices at the checkout.

“If we can work quickly to get these plants up and going again, then I think we should see the supply pressures being eased — and I think there are mechanisms for us to do that,” he said.

“Simply just getting on with the job, cleaning up and then getting those grants out there to help in the clean-up and the rebuilding… we’ll do that quickly.

“But we just need to make sure that people also understand we’re not out of the woods yet.

“There is still danger and the Bureau (of Meteorology) only just issued a brief to me… to suggest that there is further rain coming and we need to understand that we have wet catchments and this could cause more flash flooding.”

Queensland is by far Australia’s biggest beef-producing State, followed by NSW and Victoria.

It is home to some of the country’s largest processors, from Gympie in the north to Casino in the South, and across to Grantham in the west.

“All have been impacted in a major way by the Queensland and NSW floods, especially Gympie, which was hit first, and hardest,” an AMIC spokesperson said.

The flooding in Brisbane and its surrounds is the most severe since 2011, when the city was inundated by a once-in-a-century event.

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