Forrest calls on investment

Rueben HaleThe West Australian

WA mining magnate and Harvey Beef owner Andrew Forrest has appealed to his industry partners to invest in the State's agriculture sector.

He said the industry could count on his support if they did.

Mr Forrest made the appeal at a large celebratory Christmas gathering at its festive celebration at WA Maritime Museum in Fremantle last week.

He told the crowd, made up of company partners and supporters, that if they were prepared to invest into their companies, farms and stations, his company would be a platform for that investment.

_Countryman _understands Harvey Beef's much-anticipated $20 million world-class coolroom will be commissioned in March next year.

The coolroom is rumoured to have the capacity to massively increase the efficiency and consistency of its processing, with production moving from a labour-intensive operation to one where product goes in and out of a fully automated system in near-perfect condition.

The commissioning of the coolroom will remove a historic production bottleneck at the abattoir and facilitate increased production, when required.

Chatter about the imminent coolroom opening came on top of news that the iconic Southwest abattoir had made a net profit of more than $3 million.

In the first full year of operation under the ownership of Mr Forrest, it now carries cattle worth more than $10 million on its books.

The investment in cattle reflects a new approach to adding value to the WA supply chain through a 100-day grain-feeding program.

Harvey Beef had just 284 cattle valued at $258,618 on its books at the end of 2013-14.

Twelve months later, it had 8502 cattle valued at $10.28 million.

Mr Forrest said he had invested in Harvey Beef at the bottom of the market and was excited about the future of beef in WA and to be able to return value to his company's supporters.

It has been a whirlwind ride of Statewide agricultural investment for the billionaire since early last year, when he took the industry by surprise and snapped up Harvey Beef for $45 million from under the nose of WA pork giant Craig Moystn Group.

With the purchase, Mr Forrest promised to retain the abattoir's 300-strong workforce and first indicated his willingness to spend millions upgrading the ageing facility.

Since that time, he has invested tens of millions of dollars in his WA cattle empire, adding Brick House Station and Minilya Station, to its three existing pastoral properties in the region - Minderoo, Nanutarra and Uaroo.

Last week, Mr Forrest's Minderoo Station unveiled its new investment in its beef supply chain, built on Uaroo Station in the Pilbara.

The 3000-head facility covers almost 4000sqm, which does not include an additional five 1000sqm feed pens.

The comprehensive yard will include a cattle processing facility, spelling and point-of-sale yard and a transit yard for local producers to use for spelling, rehydrating and weighing of cattle destined for Harvey Beef.

All the Pilbara stations and cattle-holding yard will send cattle to be processed at Harvey, under plans to boost the supply of high-quality beef to domestic and export markets.

"We are in a battle to make West Australian beef the most competitively priced, best quality, and most reliable in the world," Mr Forrest said.

"And we're in this together."

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