EASTERN states' cattle markets registered near record prices last week, rubbing salt into WA beef producers' already deep financial wounds.
The price peak comes with speculation in the industry this week that Harvey Beef has dropped its schedule price by up to 20c/kg. Harvey Beef chief executive officer Michael Rapattoni said the processor was back buying in the saleyards and price was price.
He would not comment any further.
The highest cow price recorded this year in the eastern states' physical markets was the 192.2c/kg liveweight registered at Casino last Wednesday.
This was the highest price paid for cows at this market since September 2001 when a record price of 195.2c/kg lwt was set.
Cow prices surged along the east coast with the Dalby market topping at 190c/kg, 182c at Dubbo, 180c in Shepparton, 185.6c at Toowoomba, and Wagga Wagga's 179c.
All the prices were the highest since 2005, while a top of 184c/kg at Gunnedah was its best since November 2004.
Bull prices also increased significantly, selling to tops of 220c/kg lwt at Wodonga and 229c/kg at Armidale.
These prices were set in a week when numbers sold through the saleyards rose by 15pc.
But the market continues to languish in WA.
Cow prices topped at 112c/kg lwt at Midland last week, while prices were even worse at last Thursday's Mount Barker sale with good cows selling for 80c-95c/kg.
Heavy bulls returned 102c-125c/kg, a little more than half of the prices received in the eastern states.
No one seems to be able to answer why WA cattle prices are so far behind.
What producers do know is that the industry, if it wasn't previously, is now at the crossroads.
Yornup beef producer Michael Campbell said WA's lack of competition is affecting cattle prices.
"Competition is the big thing and unfortunately in WA we suffer from a lack of it in both the processing sector and in the saleyard," he said.
"There is also a backlog of cattle in the system at the moment and while we have that build up prices are not going to go up.