Harvey Beef's help for fire-affected suppliers

11 Jan, 2016 10:36 AM

WA beef processor Harvey Beef has offered assistance to producers after the devastation of the fires that swept the region this week.

According to the Department of Agriculture and Food, approximately 426 agricultural properties in the Yarloop, Harvey and Waroona areas are believed to have been impacted by the fires.

An estimated 33,000 hectares of agricultural land has been affected by the fires and the blaze has burnt out a significant amount of pasture.

Due to this lack of feed, Harvey Beef has decided that all cattle from producers affected by the fire be processed as a first priority.

Minderoo Group's (Harvey Beef owner) head of agribusiness John Hartman said if the fire status remained or was downgraded, he hoped Harvey Beef would resume full production and could assist beef producers as soon as possible.

"The best thing we can do for local beef producers is make sure they have priority access during this busy time for us," he said.

"We will make sure there is enough kill space for anyone that needs to move cattle off their properties.

"We sent our staff home on Thursday morning, because many of them are locals and some lost their homes, so we wanted to make sure they were okay.

"We stopped full production, so we have a bit of a backlog but we hope to get through that today and resume full production tomorrow.

"So any producers that wish to move cattle for processing, can call our livestock team."

As some producers had already delivered cattle to Harvey prior to the fires, an arrangement has been made for producers with cattle at the plant, to be able to substitute them.

"We have 1800 cattle at the moment, as they have been sitting here for an extended period of time they can experience some stress," Mr Hartman said.

"While those cattle are at Harvey, until they are processed, they are still the responsibility of the producer and the producer is not paid until they are graded and weighed.

"So from a financial perspective we don't want the producers to be worse off, by the delay of processing.

"Coles have committed to providing assistance to Coles' cattle suppliers that have been affected.

"Coles are looking at transporting those cattle back to the property of origin, let them have a rest and exchange them for fresh cattle.

"They can send us the original cattle at a later date, once they are refreshed.

"This will make sure the producer is not financially disadvantaged."

Mr Hartman said Harvey Beef was confident it would be processing cattle fully as of tomorrow.

Harvey Beef owner, Andrew Forrest travelled to the plant on Saturday to thank the Harvey Beef team who helped monitor the plant and product, filling fire trucks and preparing for possible fires.

He thanked them for their commitment and courage and pledged his full support for the future community rebuild and renewal.

"I feel deeply for the tragic loss of life and for those who have lost property and possessions and am in awe of the dedication that I have witnessed," Mr Forrest said.

"We stand 100 per cent behind these brave South West communities as they commence their road to recovery."

Mr Hartman said Saturday was the worst of the days for Harvey as the fire was encroaching quickly.

"We couldn't see the flames but we could see the smoke coming closer towards the back (of the property).

"The blaze was as close as 1.5km from the meat processing plant.

"At one stage it was a bit hairy - but we were very lucky.

"But it's not over yet."

On Friday, the Forrest Highway was closed in both directions, from Forrestry Road to Pinjarra Road, the South Western Highway was also closed in both directions from Harvey townsite to Greenlands Road, near Pinjarra and Old Coast Road was closed in both directions from Old Bunbury Road to Forrest Highway, Lake Clifton.

Harvey Beef general manager Wayne Shaw said due to the road closures, the high risk and because many of Harvey Beef's employees were from the affected area the plant had closed down.

"All major roads had been closed, so no trucks could come in or go out," Mr Shaw said.

Harvey Beef said it is providing to assistance to employees and producers affected by the fires.

Farmers whose properties have been impacted can contact DAFWA on 9780 6200 for livestock information, including animal health issues.

Jacinta Bolsenbroek

Jacinta Bolsenbroek

is a senior journalist at Farm Weekly


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