A FLYING delegation of beef industry leaders touched back down in Brisbane last night and tangible results already appear to be taking shape from their two-day tour of meetings with producers in Longreach, Cloncurry, Quilpie and Roma.
The tour brought together leaders from the beef supply chain with a view to developing a cooperative, industry-driven approach to improving levels of trust between the beef production and processing sectors.
The tour, organised by Queensland LNP Senator and Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee chair Barry O’Sullivan, heard producers raise concerns about saleyard buying practices and a perceived lack of transparency in pricing information throughout the chain.
With two key inquiries likely to recommend industry-wide change in coming months, and possibly new Government-imposed rules, there now appears to be a strong commitment within all sectors to find industry-driven solutions.
The ACCC’s market study of the beef cattle supply chain is due to report in November/December, while the Senate RRAT References Committee’s inquiry into the effect of market consolidation on the red meat processing sector is scheduled to report in March next year, a delayed deadline so it can take into account the ACCC’s findings.
Senator O’Sullivan told Beef Central that several developments now likely to occur as a result of the tour, and which build on three years of inquiries and ’thousands of conversations’ with stakeholders throughout the supply chain as part of that process, include:
- The Red Meat Advisory Council (RMAC) will play a lead role in developing an industry-produced national code of conduct for buyers and agents in saleyards. It is understood the code being discussed would be voluntary, with a focus on buyers and buyer’s agents declaring prior to a sale which parties they will be buying for, to improve transparency issues.
- Producer concerns about the integrity of meat grading systems within meatworks regularly came up during meetings, with calls for third-party graders to replace processor-paid AUSMEAT graders. One development expected to overcome perception issues about the independence of graders is the nearing introduction of objective measurement technology such as high-tech cameras which objectively scan and confirm carcase meat yield. MLA managing director Richard Norton indicated this week that the physical hardware required to underpin this shift could begin implementation in plants in 2017.
- The long-running Cattle Council of Australia restructure process to develop a new fully directly elected board and representation for all cattle industry levy payers, will now be fast-tracked, Senator O’Sullivan said.
- Within Government, greater attention will now be focused on overcoming technical trade barriers, which are inhibiting the ability of Australia’s export beef industry to fully exploit the opportunities created by Free Trade Agreements. Senator O’Sullivan said assistant trade minister, NQ cane farmer and member for Hinkler Keith Pitt, has been given responsibility for tackling these specific trade barrier issues. Industry concerns that the Department of Agriculture is not putting enough resourcing into trade development opportunities will also be addressed, the Senator said.
- MLA will also appear at a public hearing of the RRAT senate inquiry to inform the Government on where work to remove trade barriers should be focused to deliver maximum benefits.
Senator O’Sullivan said the group that travelled through Queensland over the past few days, including Australian Meat Industry Council, the Australian Meat Processor Corporation, Cattle Council of Australia and Meat & Livestock Australia, was committed to achieving genuine change.