SENIOR executives from the Coles Group inspected WA abattoirs last week in the first positive step towards getting WA beef and lamb back onto the supermarket chain¹s shelves.
The executives visited a number of abattoirs over three days and met with processors in a whirlwind visit to review the capabilities of WA¹s processing industry.
And while the processors believe the visit was a step in the right direction for WA producers, they stopped short of saying that it would lead to more WA beef and lamb on Coles¹ shelves.
The WA beef industry in particular has been vocal about Coles importing beef from the eastern states after it was reported exclusively in Farm Weekly last year that there was only a very minimal amount of WA product being sold in Coles supermarkets.
It was revealed most of the beef sold in Coles¹ WA super-markets arrived in unlabelled boxes from the eastern states.
Coles has not had a large contract with a WA beef processor since the end of an agreement with EG Greens more than two years ago.
At the time they were buying about 450 head of cattle per week.
Western Meat Packers owner Rod Russell, the only processor in WA who supplies to Coles, also met with the executives and said the meeting was positive.
³We have been supplying them for a long time and hope to continue to supply them in the future,² Mr Russell said.
³In terms of more WA product being purchased by them I think there is an opportunity there but it is really up to individual processors to come up with an arrangement that will suit them.
³The ball is in the processor¹s court to satisfy Coles¹ require-ments and at the end of the day it will probably come down to price.²
Mr Russell said it was good to meet the supermarket chain¹s senior management and the feedback he received about processing facilities was positive.
Agriculture Minister Kim Chance said he met with senior executives last Tuesday before they started a tour of processing establishments throughout the South-West.
³While in Perth, the buyers also had the opportunity to sample dishes with a distinctly Western Australian flavour, using a range of cuts sourced from some of the state¹s meat producers,² Mr Chance said.
³The Coles buyers were well aware of WA¹s reputation for producing high quality meats.
³However, in a nationally competitive market, this was an opportunity to demonstrate the edge that WA producers could have over their eastern states competitors based on the quality and consistency of their product.²
WA Lot Feeders Association president Paul O¹Meehan said he hoped price wouldn¹t be the supermarket¹s only considera-tion.
³WA cattle producers are in a position to supply a consistent quality product and we would look forward to dealing with them if they were interested in coming back into the WA market,² he said.
Mr O¹Meehan said Wool-worths were taking 1000 head a week and if Coles took anywhere near that number it would be a boost to the WA grain fed market and the WA industry as a whole.