ALCOA Farmlands manager, Tony Hiscock, has the job of pulling together the team that will decide the future of the WA beef industry.
Last week Agriculture Minister Terry Redman announced Mr Hiscock’s appointment as chairman of the WA Beef Council at Parliament House.
Warrick Yates’s Beef Stocktake Report was crystal clear that a WA Beef Council was crucial to the sustainability and development of the WA cattle industry.
Mr Hiscock has had many years of experience serving on industry councils and groups and is now involved with four environmental groups. He was the chair of Farmsafe WA for 10 years until stepping down to vice-chair in 2009.
He also brings almost 20 years of experience as Alcoa Farmlands manager to the role as well as a varied career in agriculture in the eastern States and South-East Asia.
“I’m looking forward to the challenges but at the same time I’m conscious of the consequence if it fails,” Mr Hiscock said.
“Nobody wants to see that happen, there’s too much at stake. It has to be successful, particularly from an industry perspective.”
Mr Hiscock knew that producer’s had high expectations of the WA Beef Council.
“The industry is going to be looking at us over the top of its glasses, they’re going to be assessing the investments being made in this council, if we don’t deliver then they’ll say that we have just wasted industry funds,” he said.
“I don’t want anyone to say that, certainly the government doesn’t want that to happen and most importantly, the industry can’t afford for that to happen.
“I think that if we don’t take the Stocktake report seriously and implement the recommendations, then the industry will at best maintain status quo, or at worst will go backwards, leaving WA exposed to large volumes of imported product.”
Mr Hiscock said the key ingredient to ensuring the effectiveness of a WA Beef Council was unification of the industry.
He believed too much time had been wasted already on retrospective arguments.
“One of the things I get concerned about is that there are certain elements within the industry that are always pointing the finger and blaming everyone else,” he said.
“It’s a small industry in a large State and if we don’t start to get together to find out where those synergies are, we’re all going to perish together. We need an attitude of ‘lets get in there and do this’, rather than saying ‘I told you so’.”
“We’ve have to start looking at being more market driven and not commodity driven,” he said. “Everyone has become so interested in their own little patch, trying to make a buck out of it. We’ve lost focus on what makes an industry grow.”
Mr Hiscock said the next two years were crucial for the WA beef industry.
He believed the industry’s opportunities lay in three key areas.
“It’s in stabilising, specialising and improving communication along the supply chain as we know it now, it’s about addressing the continuity of the supply issues and it’s about forging forward on export markets that we know we can continually and consistently supply with quality product,” he said.
And the success of the northern beef industry would be just as important to the WA Beef Council as the southern cattle areas, according to Mr Hiscock.
He was disappointed by suggestions of a north versus south mentality evolving within major representative groups in WA.
The role of the WA Beef Council was to set direction with assistance for implementation of strategies coming from the government.
Mr Hiscock planned to have preliminary discussions with nominated members of the Beef Council in March before announcing full membership of the WA Beef Council in May.