Meat group delivering gains

Rebecca TurnerCountryman

Beef producers assembled in Launceston last week for a turbo-charged annual general meeting of the industry’s peak body.

Meat and Livestock Australia’s (MLA) future was to put to a vote, with some delegates calling for the organisation to be dumped.

But the move was quickly dispatched and the meeting got down to its real purpose.

MLA managing director David Palmer said the group delivered a surplus of $1.1 million last financial year.

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“We aim to drive producers’ levy dollars further by helping to increase returns per hectare, further growing demand for red meat and reinforcing community trust in our industry, ” Mr Palmer said.

He highlighted some of the industry achievements, including a review of the More Beef from Pastures, Making More From Sheep and other northern beef programs which showed they returned between $2.60 and $4 to the industry for every dollar invested.

Mr Palmer said the number of Meat Standards Australia (MSA) graded beef cattle had reached 1.25 million head in 2010, an increase of 27 per cent on last year.

He said the number of lambs graded had also doubled to 508,000 head.

The successful negotiations to supply beef to the EU as part of the EU agreement with the US for a new tariff-free beef quota was also highlighted as a major achievement, as well as the success of MLA’s domestic lamb marketing campaign.

Servings of lamb during the Australia Day period were up 8.4 per cent year-on-year to hit 21.9 million a week, according to Roy Morgan.

Mr Palmer said the launch of the Red Meat Green Facts campaign to educate consumers about the industry’s environmental credentials was another achievement.

MLA chairman Don Heatley said he was optimistic about the future of the industry.

“The past year has once again delivered a volatile mix of challenges and successes, ” he said.

“An Australian dollar that reached parity with the US and ongoing economic woes in our major markets placed enormous pressure on returns to exporters and producers.

“Despite this, the lamb industry has thrived as demand in the Middle East and on the domestic market continues to grow.”

Mr Heatley did not deny that the beef business was tough.

“Exports have been eroded by the exchange rate, but it has been pleasing to see the Australian domestic market absorb the additional product and keep paying a good price for it, ” he said.

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