HEADS have rolled over accusations of misconduct and suspicious business deals in the meat section o

14 Dec, 2006 07:00 PM
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It is the second time in four weeks that Coles¹ meat section has been under the spotlight.

Last month, Coles¹ senior merchandise managing director was sacked over his involvement with the company¹s meat supplier.

In the latest incident, a Coles senior manager has been linked to a trucking company that transports livestock for the supermarket chain.

Coles national livestock manager David McKibbin is a director of the Victorian-based family livestock trucking company McKibbins Transport, which is paid by Coles to transport sheep and cattle to Coles¹ feedlots and abattoirs.

Mr McKibbin¹s link to the family business surfaced in the ongoing internal investigation conducted by Coles into its meat sector.

Mr McKibbin and Coles meat general manager Keith Howe have stood aside while the investigation takes place.

In a brief statement to the media, Coles maintained this did not imply that either of the men had acted improperly.

Both men will reportedly continue to receive full pay while the investigation continues.

Coles would not confirm to Farm Weekly if the company¹s board was aware of Mr McKibbin¹s relationship with the trucking company.

Coles did not respond to questioning about whether its livestock buyers had been specifically instructed to use McKibbin¹s Transport.

A Coles spokesperson did confirm that an external investigator was assisting with the investigation.

The news comes in the wake of a Farm Weekly article in August, which exclusively revealed that Coles was stocking its WA shelves with eastern states beef at the expense of local product.

It was also revealed the WA Quarantine Inspection Service, Agriculture Department and Health Department had no records of boxed beef movements across the WA border.

The article caused uproar in the industry with local producers threatening to boycott Coles unless it bought more WA beef.

A Coles spokesperson claimed the supermarket purchased more than $260 million worth of WA produce, but did not specify how much of it was beef.

Coles would not respond to questions about the exact origin of beef on its WA shelves.

The WA livestock industry was staggered at the non-existent paddock-to-plate traceability for Coles¹ beef.

Coles media spokesman Scott Whiffin said the company¹s investigation into the meat department was initiated on November 17 following the dismissal of senior merchandise managing director Peter Scott.

Mr Scott was sacked following allegations over his involvement with Coles¹ meat supplier, Tasman Group chairman Giuseppe Catalfamo.

Mr Scott reportedly acquired an expensive Melbourne apartment after investing in property developments connected to Mr Catalfamo.

Tasman Group abattoirs process a large proportion of Coles¹ lamb and beef in Victoria and Tasmania.

In the early 1980s Mr Catalfamo was fined and banned from exporting meat to the US after it was revealed one of his companies, Jason Meats, had substituted beef shipments with horse meat.

During a Royal Commission into meat substitution, Mr Catalfamo admitted to bribing meat inspectors.

Meanwhile, the supermarket¹s major competitor, Woolworths, announced last week its intention to increase the prices it pays WA beef producers to help them through drought conditions.

Producers will reportedly receive a minimum increase of 2c/kg.

Woolworths sources 95-100pc of its beef for WA stores from WA producers.

The news comes after Federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran announced an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) investigation into red meat and livestock price discrepancies.

Mr McGauran confirmed this week that ACCC investigators had met with supermarkets and obtained transaction costs from the saleyard through to the shelf.

He said supermarkets taking advantage of drought-affected producers was one of the lowest acts imaginable.

An Agriculture Department report published in October found significant differences in livestock prices between WA and the eastern states.

The study found WA had consistently fallen below national livestock price averages for the past three years.

Woolworths has denied its increase to producers is connected with ACCC investigations.

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