Beef producer shut out

13 Nov, 2007 09:00 PM
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WA producers are sick and tired of low cattle prices and they say more competition is needed in the market to push WA prices closer to those their eastern states’ counterparts are getting.

Brunswick cattle producer Michael Bull is one such farmer feeling the effects of a lack of competition in the processing sector.

He told Farm Weekly that while he is able to get young cattle slaughtered at other abattoirs, he cannot sell cull cows or older bulls to slaughter because the only facility that processes ageing animals, Harvey Beef, refused to handle his animals.

Mr Bull said the dispute centred around a disagreement with a buyer 18 months ago.

He said other outlets for ageing cattle in WA were very limited.

“I have had to leave my older cows in the paddock and let them die of old age,” he said.

“It is costing me money, but I don’t have any other option.

“I have approached Harvey Beef to try and reconcile the situation, and while they were interested at one stage, I haven’t heard anything further.

“I run 2000 cattle only 20km from the plant and I am unable to send cattle there.

“It is a ludicrous situation.”

Mr Bull knows firsthand the price difference for beef between WA and the eastern states.

His family owns a property in Tamworth, NSW, and he said the gap was highlighted last week when the properties either side of the nation sold cattle at the same time.

He said contrary to the belief in WA, cattle prices in the eastern states had increased in recent weeks.

“Even though there are a lot of cattle coming on the market in the east because of the drought, prices are going up over there,” he said.

“Thousand-kilo bulls made 50c/kg in Midland last week and in Tamworth they made $1.44/kg.

“Average quality cows made $1.34/kg over there and here they made 70-80c/kg.

“Surely the beef is going to the same markets so how can there be such a huge price difference?

“As a producer, I feel the processors are ripping us off.”

Mr Bull said he was concerned that other producers would not speak up about the industry because they are worried that they also wouldn’t be able to get their cattle slaughtered.

“To have that situation in WA where the market is controlled is terrible,” he said.

“Processors keep citing the Australian dollar as having an impact on prices, but overseas buyers know the value of the dollar.

“They will still buy because they want the product.”

Harvey Beef would not comment, saying it would prefer to speak to Mr Bull personally.

The current low prices and lack of processing space has renewed calls for another abattoir to be developed in WA.

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