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Processors Feel the Pinch of Live Exports!

Article in the press this season shut down for Townsville abattoirs is twice as long as normal as live exports eat into meat industry cattle share. Could it be possible that the processors along with unions and animal rights are getting ready for another campaign against live cattle trade?

It seems meat employees are angry because JBS meat Works as Stuart is shutting up a month early. It is the earliest end of year closure in about a decade. For the workers it means a shutdown lasting eight weeks instead of the usual four.

One of the major reasons seems the shortage of supply of cattle is due to severe drought affecting much of Queensland and the other contributing factor that has triggered much anger is a growth in the live cattle export trade out of Townsville.

JBS chief operating officer northern Anthony Pratt said in 2015 has been a challenging year for the abattoir, due to tight supply of cattle and reduced international demand for beef.

Though I’m a great believer in jobs and feel very strongly that we are exporting jobs out of Australia. The simple fact is that without live exports and the competition they create we will see the demise of the cattle industry as we know it. Processors make much of the fact that they look after producers as there will not be an industry without them. Talk is cheap and when one looks back at the prices producers were paid in the middle of the drought when there was a glut of cattle come into processing works and the games the processors played were simply disgusting.

According to the MLA East the standard indicator prices paid for cattle were about $2.80 a kilogram in 2014, whilst all this was happening we saw record export prices for beef in overseas markets. Record lows to producers for their cattle, record highs for the meat harvested off those cattle. 

The Australian reported that documents held by the Australian securities and investment commission show Teys after-tax profit had risen from $21.3 million in 2012 to $195 million in 2014, could it be possible this profit came out of producers’   pockets. It seems that after the live export debacle and drought the processors had a wonderful time and made billions.

The weight of cattle being exported seems to be a sore point with JBS with cattle over 350kg going to Vietnam. Take a beast going on to a boat one could expect to get something like three dollars a kilogram live weight, however if the same cattle going to one of the major processors one could not guarantee what the end returns will be. Penalties are alive and well in Australia and if a beast is over fat, too little fat, too old are just some of the reasons then savage penalties are imposed. Take a beast that meets MSA standards but doesn’t meet company standards, there is nothing to stop a processor putting this meat in an MSA box which will give them premium price. As with any other discounted carcass having meat harvested being sold as a premium product.

In the US uncle recently producers been getting double the price that producers in Australia had been getting added to the fact there dressing percentage on a live animal to a carcass in US is about 62% in Australia we could hope to get 52%, on a 600 kg beast bringing 6 dollars a kilogram $360 difference.

Over the last few years we have watched with despair as producers have been pushed off their land without anything but the clothes on their back. A lot of people blamed the banks, which have undoubtedly operated in some cases without compassion.

Could it be possible that the people really screwing producers over the last few years have been the processors? Have they taken every advantage of producers who are forced to sell stock at prices that were well below the cost of production? As a child I was told that you reap what you sow, could it be possible that processors are reaping the rewards of greed?

As far as the meat workers go, I have every sympathy, however a worker is supplied with clothing a guaranteed wage, superannuation, holidays, leave loading, long service leave the list goes on. In contrast the people supplying the resources to keep them in work are expected to supply cattle through drought, low prices and finance all this with their own savings with a real risk of losing the lot including home and income. All after working hours that most would find unacceptable.

How meat workers like most of us buy product from overseas because the product from overseas is cheaper, despite the fact it affects our jobs.  Surely people must realise we can’t have it both ways. By having high wages and demanding cheap manufactured product created by low wages and poor conditions does not add up.

Solution: look at Unions, processors and animal rights groups, they are well-resourced and very efficient and then look at cattle producers’ peak body which is broke and ineffectual. Change is not a luxury it is a must and producers will continue to get trampled by well-resourced and efficient bodies without appropriate change.

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