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Co-op reaps Chinese rewards

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

Australia's biggest lamb and mutton co-operative has declared a record profit after a big jump in sales to China and a successful overhaul of its abattoir in NSW.

WA-based WAMMCO, which employs about 350 people at Katanning, made $10 million before tax and a $1.8 million rebate payment to producer members in 2012-13.

The result, which follows a loss of $885,000 in 2011-12, comes after WAMMCO completed the purchase and revamp of the Southern Meats abattoir in Goulburn.

WAMMCO chief executive Coll MacRury said strong demand from China shone out, particularly in sales of frozen mutton at the lower end of the market. Australia's mutton exports to China, Taiwan and Hong Kong increased 166 per cent to $92.4 million in 2012-13. Mutton exports to China increased five-fold to 35,867 tonnes.

Mr MacRury said WAMMCO's exports to China were up more than 50 per cent. "There have been a lot of benefits from the increased activity out of China," he said. "It has lifted the world base price for cheaper products which has helped the whole industry."

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Mr MacRury said WAMMCO completed the $1.8 million rebate payments to members last month. The payments were brought forward from December to help relieve mounting pressure on WA farm finances.

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