Pastoralist targets boutique market

Amy Williams and Flip PriorCountryman

As cattle producers take stock of a tumultuous year in live exports and ponder their futures, Christmas has come early for ambitious Kimberley pastoralist Jack Burton.

He was pleased to have his plans for a small-scale abattoir near Broome approved by the Broome Shire Council last week - a project he said may pave the way for a much larger meatworks near Derby, to complement live export with a new domestic market.

If successful, Mr Burton's meatworks will be the first in the Kimberley since 1993, when Broome's Demco Meatworks closed.

Mr Burton, of Yeeda Pastoral Company, said he believed the latest move by Indonesia was "political payback".

"We're all pretty concerned about it obviously ... in all honesty, the response from the Federal Government was a disgrace," he said.

"It just confirms the need for us to have another option … an abattoir in the north."

Mr Burton said plans were well underway to have the small abattoir operational by March, 2013 at Kilto station, 70km north east of Broome.

It will process up to 100 head of cattle a week, and produce up to 100,000 tonnes of beef per year, to test the market with a boutique organic beef product.

"We've got our small pilot project applications all finished the other day and that all passed through the Broome Shire," Mr Burton said.

However, he said the bigger facility he wanted to build between Broome and Derby would be able to process up to 50,000 cattle a year, create a new domestic market for organic and high-grade beef, as well as provide up to 30 permanent jobs.

"We've got an unhealthy reliance on the Indonesian market … it's definitely not going to take all the cattle. If the Indonesian trade is still viable and pays good prices, that's going to be an option," Mr Burton said.

"But some of the cattle that won't be suitable for live export will be suitable for what we're looking at.

"We've got markets organised - some domestic and some international, that's pretty well in hand."

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