HIGH-PROFILE meat and livestock industry identity David Larkin has joined Western Australia’s Kimberley Meat Cooperative as the business’s new chief executive officer.
Mr Larkin, a former Australian Meat Industry Council president, spent the previous four years as head of Gina Rinehart’s Kidman and Hancock Pastoral Co interests, before departing suddenly last July.
During his tenure at Hancock, the business grew dramatically, both through investment in existing assets and purchases of additional grazing properties and feedlots. It also launched Wagyu and conventional brand programs into international and domestic markets.
Prior to working with Hancock Mr Larkin ran his own non-packer exporter branded beef business, Atron Enterprises, and worked for a period in management with Thomas Foods International.
Kimberley Meat Co-operative chairman Mervyn Key confirmed that Mr Larkin has taken up the role, in preparation for the commencement of operations for the 2022 season.
“David knows the Kimberley Meat Co business well,” he said. “During his time with Hancock, he personally was involved in large contract kills through the KMC facility. He knows KMC very well, he knows its operations very well, and he knows the Kimberley pastoral industry’s operations very well.
“Local cattle producers are all excited to have somebody with David’s obvious talents and experience running the place – it’s so much more than the business has ever had in the past,” Mr Key said.
“David sees a great niche in the market for a large grassfed beef kill in northern Australia – firstly for the Kimberley region, but for all of WA, on a bigger scale.”
Mr Larkin will spend at least half of his working time at the plant near Broome, but because he will also have responsibility for export and domestic meat sales, will also operate remotely for periods during the year.
Plant operations manager Laurence Macri* (originally mis-spelt Marci – editor) will continue to head day-to-day operations, as he has for the past four years.
The Kimberley Meat Co plant suspended operations last year due to extreme high demand for breeding cattle replacements out of eastern Australia.
“Local cattle were simply too expensive to process last year, given demand out of the east – and who wants to lose $300 a head or more processing cattle?” Mr Key said.
The recently-restructured cooperative plans to start its 2022 season some time during March, with commitments secured for kills from cooperative members and others – mostly cows and bulls. Much of the Kimberley has received only a very light wet season so far this year, suggesting cattle supply may be plentiful in the early stages.
Mr Key said the float of the co-op (see earlier story) had been completed successfully, reaching its investment targets. Co-op members included a combination of local Kimberley beef producers, together with outside investors from WA’s southwestern corner.
However there were still a few more slots available for others to join the co-op, he said. Several prospective investors were simply finalising board approvals.
“The project has received a lot of support from the WA Government, which sees merit in having a producer-led co-op in the state’s north,” he said.
Mr Key said the Kimberley Beef plant was looking to process between 35,000 and 40,000 head of local cattle this year, over an eight or nine month season. Total plant capacity on a single shift is around 50,000 head/year.
The business’s core team involving disciplines like quality assurance, engineering etc are in place, and a team of visa holders – mostly Solomon Islanders – have been recruited to help man the kill floor and boning room. Casual labour and other full-time hands are being recruited currently, for the March seasonal start. Close to 80 personnel are required to man a full shift.
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