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Counterpoint No 494- Separate planets. Market reporting failure

Last week, at 1.00am, under a magical frosty moon I unloaded heifer calves trucked from Casino sale yards. They cost me $1.18/kg.  On a separate planet, in the drought stricken west of USA similar heifers were bringing over $6.00/kg.  It costs just over 20cents/kg to send our beef to the US yet we haven’t looked like filling our quota and we have a Free Trade Agreement.  There is no subsidy involved in US calf prices.  Ireland, where cattle are bringing four times our prices, is now negotiating to export to the US.  Contrary to CCA/MLA propaganda, Ireland exports a higher percentage of its production than Australia.

California is bankrupt yet is planning to spend over $ 7 billion on water works.  Canberra just doesn’t understand agriculture and the big picture.

In 2015 we will have around 23 million cattle and 23 million people! In 1977 we had 33 million cattle and 12 million people.  In 1977 Australian consumers were eating 70kgs of beef per annum.  Now, with cattle bringing half in real terms what they were in 1977 Australian consumption has fallen by 55%.  In the same time US consumption has fallen 39%.  Last week, the US producer was getting 55% of the consumer dollar and the Australian producer was on around 25%.  US consumers are paying less than Australian consumers. Why has Australia got the lowest cattle prices in the world and the highest beef prices?

Answer – One word – Duopolies.  A supermarket duopoly screwing both producer and consumer.  An export abattoir duopoly screwing producers and a political duopoly screwing the nation.  Both major parties have been bought by supermarket donations and won’t move against them as was done by Northern Hemisphere Governments decades ago.  Bob Katter moved a private member’s bill for antitrust legislation, but the two big parties, and the Nationals (to their everlasting shame) sank it.  The Nationals hold the balance of power in the Senate in the same way as the much maligned other minor parties do. It is time they used it.

My submission to the Senate Inquiry into the beef levy called for legislating a version of the US Packers and Stockyard Act.  MLA and the duopolies are opposing it.  Dr. Barnard has already told the senate committee that such a move would cost the Government millions. This is an absurd claim to protect the large processors and supermarkets who don’t want their obscene share of the consumer dollar publicized.

Now Cattle Council has asked MLA to have a consultant study the cost of implementing a Australian version of the US Act—and any other ideas. This is an “in house” move to deflect any recommendation that the Senate inquiry may make toward emulating the US.

Back in 2001, when the NSW Meat Industry Authority was shut down, Australia’s market reporting had to find another home. The processors wanted it abandoned.  RMAC instituted an inquiry conducted by Professor Shirley Gregor of the ANU.  She recommended the service go to DAFF –as happens everywhere else in the World. RMAC ignored her advice and moved it to MLA. Independence was lost. Any genuine cattle breeder will wonder what further forms of torture can be inflicted on them by their representatives.

Written by John Carter

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