ES beef undercuts prices

30 Jul, 2003 10:00 PM

DROUGHT and softening export markets have been blamed for increased quantities of eastern Australian beef flowing into WA.

Beef from the east usually arrived around June to August but it was believed more was being imported this winter.

Harvey Beef chief executive officer Garry Minton said the company had not been able to compete with substantial amounts of eastern Australian beef arriving to WA in the past few months.

He said drought in eastern Australia had led to more cattle being processed and that a softening of the Japanese and US markets also had an impact.

On average, 35 per cent of Harvey Beef's product went onto the domestic market at about the same time beef usually arrived from eastern Australia.

He did not believe the imports would result in loss of jobs at the plant.

"It's just how we manage through it," he said. "It could swing and we could end up sending it over there."

National Beef Improvement Association (BIA) president and Nannup cattleman Mario Camarri said he was concerned about the impact imported beef was having on the local industry.

"I understand about market forces but I think importers of product need to know about the long term implications and impact, not only on producers, but also on processors," he said.

"Prices have come back considerably and it has affected out bottom line."

Mr Camarri said that while WA producers could produce cattle as competitively as in eastern Australia, local producers had difficulty in keeping up supply at this time of the year because the market was low. And this was due to imported beef.

It cost about 30-40 cents a kilogram to transport the eastern states meat to WA.

Meanwhile, the Japanese Government was moving ahead with plans to increase beef import tariffs to 50 per cent, which could see Australia's market share reduced and more eastern states beef coming across the border.

In April, Coles dropped forward contracts for grain-fed beef through EG Green and Sons and was now buying on the spot market.

There were less WA cattle on feed this year compared to last year.


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