New owner to re-open abattoir

Kate PollardCountryman
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Hillside Abattoir in Narrogin could be open for business in six weeks, giving WA sheep producers another marketing option.

Jordanian company Hijazi and Ghosheh Group (HGG), owner of Perth-based live exporter Livestock Shipping Services (LSS), has signed a contract to buy the abattoir and is waiting for settlement.

Up to 80 abattoir jobs and management positions will be advertised for processing for the domestic market as well as frozen and chilled sheepmeat for containerised and air-freight export to the Middle East, particularly Jordan.

When the processing plant re-opens after being closed for nearly 12 months, it will coincide with the spring flush and should help create extra competition in the market.

LSS sheep livestock manager Scott Jewell said that buying the abattoir gave the group more options and supported WA sheep farmers and the Narrogin community.

During on-farm visits, Mr Jewell said LSS buyers would be able to buy export wethers and other sheep for the abattoir including lighter-end lambs.

Sustainability of WA's processing sector has been under question, especially because processors are hard hit by declining sheep numbers.

The previous owner of Hillside Abattoir, Elderstone Nominees, went into voluntary receivership last November.

The sheep shortage and high Australian dollar were believed to have played a part and 90 creditors owed money.

The butcher shop, Hillside Meats, is separate from the abattoir and has been operating normally.

Mr Jewell believes the marketing power of HGG will help ensure the viability of the processing plant.

"Our parent company already has market options for all our lamb and mutton," he said.

"We are already buying out of the eastern states and this will give us more reliability, which we haven't been able to get, as well as more consistency. We are value adding our own business through buying, processing and exporting."

The amount paid for the processing plant, set on 5.7 hectares 2.5 hours from Perth and with facilities for cattle and drying skins, is being kept quiet.

The Shire of Narrogin and Town of Narrogin say the news is a boost for their communities.

At its peak, the abattoir employed 100 people and when it closed it is believed 50 people had to find jobs elsewhere. Many left town.

The financial impact was felt in the rental market, by small business and the community's social groups and sporting clubs.

Narrogin mayor Don Ennis said re-opening the abattoir added diversification to the agricultural sector and the community.

Along with the shire and business, they are working on an economic development plan to revitalise business.

"As far as the future for this area, the abattoir will be an integral part and we are pleased to see it come back on-stream," Mr Ennis said.

Shire of Narrogin president Richard Chadwick, a local farmer, said the sale was good news for the district and for farmers but it needed to be sustainable and attracting staff might be difficult.

A spokeswoman for liquidator PriceWaterhouse Coopers said once settlement was finalised they would be in a position to address issues, including unsecured creditors.

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