Wellard challenges job claims
Australia’s largest live exporter has challenged claims that the cattle shipping trade costs tens of thousands of jobs in Australia’s meat processing sector each year.
At yesterday’s Senate hearing Wellard Rural Exports managing director Steve Meerwald said it had been frustrating to observe the uninformed opinions aired on issues surrounding the trade by people determined to see live exports stopped.
One claim was that there had been between 30,000 and 40,000 Australian red meat processing jobs lost due the live export of Australian livestock.
Mr Meerwald said the most recent figures available from ABARES (2006/07) showed that there were 31,000 full time jobs in the entire red meat processing industry.
“Put simply the claim of the number of jobs lost to the trade is more than the 2007 total employment in the processing industry despite the export trade being just 11pc of the number of animals processed in Australia,” Mr Meerwald said.
He said the live export industry directly employed the equivalent of 3500 full time jobs while many more jobs were created by the trade in remote and regional Australia.
Wellard Rural Exporters is Australia’s largest exporter of livestock having exporter 220,000 breeding, feeder and slaughter cattle and 635,000 sheep to markets around the world last year.
The company’s $400m investment in the trade includes a feed mill, dedicated pre-export quarantine facilities, specialised handling equipment, 11 farms covering in excess of 100,000 acres, and purpose built state of the art livestock vessels and in-market facilities. In 2013 it will take delivery of further purpose designed vessels worth $92 million each.
Road Trains Australia in 'survival mode'
Further evidence of the financial impact of the Indonesian live export ban on businesses associated with the trade was outlined at yesterday’s inquiry.
The group manager of Road Trains Australia said 75pc of the road trains based in the company’s Broome depot revolved around carting cattle for live export.
July and August, normally the busiest months of the year, had been an “absolute disaster”. July turnover was down 40pc and August was down by at least 50pc.
“One of our biggest concerns during all this has been cash flow, both our own and our clients,” the RTA manager said.
“While we have been trying to cut our clients some slack in paying accounts, our wages and fuel bill still need to be paid promptly, and it has placed enormous pressure on our company.
"Basically our company has gone into survival mode.”
Producers hit by 'perfect storm': livestock agent
A Northern WA livestock agent told yesterday’s inquiry that producers had been hit by the “perfect storm” which had robbed their best chance of reducing debt in years.
Andrew Stewart from Landmark in Broome said a big wet season across the north had given producers high expectations for 2011.
“The season started with extremely high prices, unseen up here for some time, in excess of $2.10 for males and $1.90 for females.
“Everybody could actually see the light at the tunnel, they were not only going to pay some interest, they were going to knock some principal off their debts.
However the ban had left producers on their knees, and having to explain themselves to banking institutions and to ask for extensions
“I would seriously think these people would have at least 30pc of their income on what they were looking like getting at the start of the year, or more so, taken away from them."
Mr Stewart said the impact on property and livestock values had been significant.
Prior to the ban, stations sold in the Kimberley on a walk-in, walk out basis worked on around $500-$550 average per head for quality Brahman cattle. Without a suitable Indonesian option pastoralists could be looking at $200-$250 per head on walk-in, walk out basis, he said.