Abattoir study put to industry

Rebecca TurnerCountryman

Could the State’s north become WA’s beef bowl?

The answer to that question remains unclear, after the release of a new study.

The report raised concerns about the compatibility of the live export sector and a Kimberley processing facility and listed Broome as a preferable location for a new WA abattoir.

The joint Federal and State Government pre-feasibility study said a Broome facility could lead to about 100,000 head being processed locally, rather than shipped live to Indonesia.

The abattoir would create about 200 jobs, while providing work for other businesses such as transport and industry training.

“The report makes it clear that a northern abattoir could not survive on the leftovers of the live export trade, ” Agriculture Minister Terry Redman said.

“For this to work, it will require a major adjustment from northern producers, so I have asked the WA Beef Council to further consider the study and seek wider industry comment.”

Mr Redman said the restrictions on live exports brought about by the imposition of weight restrictions by Indonesian importers highlighted the risks associated with reliance on a single market.

WAFarmers meat section president Jeff Murray said his biggest concern with the report was the effect of another source of cheap beef entering the market.

“If we are going to produce another cheap beef product, with no real plan on where it will go, it is only going to add further pressure on southern cattle prices, which are already low, ” Mr Murray said.

“Adding cheap beef into an already flooded market doesn’t make sense, when there are other markets keen for live cattle that have the ability to process these animals much cheaper than us.”

Mr Murray said any WA beef product needed to be aimed at higher priced markets, because of the high costs of beef production in WA.

“While I am sure northern cattle producers will be keen to have more competition, live exporters are not going to go away just because an abattoir is built, ” he said. “The availability of labour is also an issue, with competition from the mining industry a big factor for people willing to relocate to Broome.”

Mr Murray said for potential abattoir employees, the choice between sitting in an air-conditioned Halpak on a miner’s wage and walking through a killing floor in gumboots was easy.

He said a smaller abattoir in the north using existing facilities may be a better option.

“Previously, there was a small abattoir operating in Carnarvon — the water supplies, power and other facilities are already there to be built on, ” he said.

“It may make better sense to keep the Kimberley focused on live export and open up Carnarvon for processing beef, taking advantage of the food waste already available for a serious lot-feeding industry.”

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