WA beef in short supply

Rueben HaleThe West Australian

The WA beef industry has warned that big supermarkets will be forced to source beef from the Eastern States as local supplies dry up.

WAFarmers Meat Council representative Geoff Pearson told _Countryman _ he expected this would be "the year the local processors supplying local supermarkets will get caught with their pants down", with local demand set to outstrip supply.

Mr Pearson said the rising prices for cattle and security of supply in the Eastern States was making it difficult for supermarket chains to maintain supply from local producers.

"The Eastern States situation where they've had rain and then had to restock has taken the female cattle away from the feedlots for reproductive purposes," he said.

"This has pushed the price of cattle up over there. However, even with the higher prices it is still cheaper to buy from the Eastern States at the moment compared with WA because of the effect of the live export demand there.

"So drawing cattle from the Eastern States is more sustainable for the supermarkets in the present local market."

Mr Pearson also said competition between local processors and live exporters was set to escalate.

"Vietnam is desperate for slaughter cattle out of the WA market and will buy as many as producers can supply," he said.

"And then there is Indonesia, which has just announced it is considering increasing the beef quota by another 90,000."

However, a spokesman for Woolworths said the majority of its meat was still grown in WA.

"We only source product from other States if customer demand outstrips local supply," he said.

Woolworths shopper Anne Day from Mindarie said she had noticed a sharp rise in prices for beef from the supermarket.

"But I'd still rather support locally raised products than meat coming from the Eastern States," she said.

"I was not even aware that the meat I was buying was not grown in WA and, frankly, I find it distressing because I'd rather think that the meat I was buying was going to support the local industry and our farmers."

Ms Day said if Woolworths identified WA-produced beef, she would buy it over Eastern States' products.

"I have always paid more for locally grown products," she said.

"You have to buy less meat but instead buy better. You have to make sure you get the right cuts and make sure there is no waste."

Sheepmeat Council of Australia president Jeff Murray said supermarkets could also potentially face lamb shortages.

"Live export demand for 16/kg to 18/kg lambs going into the Middle East is extremely high," he said.

"WAMMCO were offering $5 contracts on lamb to maintain supply leading into Christmas this year. Fortunately for lamb, the prices in the Eastern States are still marginally higher than WA."

But Mr Murray said grain prices could push local prices higher.

"Prices on feed barley have risen to $300/tonne, which will have a certain impact on local prices," he said. "The only way local processors are going to be able to shore up supply and prices is to commit to longer-term contracts."

_Bully for beef _

Average WA-specific prices for beef to December 18, 2014.

·Pastoral cows: 155c/kg lwt, a rise of 45c/kg from the same time in 2013 (110c/kg lwt).

·Feeder yearlings: 222c/kg lwt, a rise of 51c/kg from 12 months before (171c/kg lwt).

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