SALEYARD cattle prices dipped further this week as the Western Meat Packers (WMP) fire removed a major player in the beef market and spread a cloud of uncertainty over the industry.
The fire completely destroyed the O'Connor processing plant, causing $10 million worth of damage and forcing the closure of the company's Cowaramup abattoir, which processed about 400 beef and 1000 sheep per day.
At Midland on Monday, the local heavyweight cow market was hit hard and recorded cheaper values of 10c/kg for light and heavyweight cows.
The National Livestock Reporting Service (NLRS) said the WMP blaze had sent the WA beef industry into chaos and had a detrimental affect on finished cattle prices.
It said prime heavyweight steers, bullocks and heifers were sold in lower numbers as were tradeweight yearlings as agents and producers held stock back due to the fire.
A slight reprieve may be on the way however, as an announcement came from the WMP Group that its operations would continue in the short term in a reduced capacity.
The company has negotiated a short term shared agreement of a meat processing facility in Fremantle which will enable production of about 50 cattle per day.
WMP chief executive officer Rod Russell said his first priority is the future wellbeing of the 200 workers employed across operations in Cowaramup, O'Connor and Osborne Park.
"Some jobs will be maintained as we continue production and we will work to help other employees find employment in the industry," Mr Russell said.
"Under this arrangement we can assist a portion of WA farmers to process their cattle leading into the busy Christmas period.
"Being able to continue some production in the short term is good news for the group, our staff, WA cattle farmers and consumers."
Mr Russell said some staff would be offered redundancies and those who would not continue employment with the group would be paid all due entitlements.