Producers grill beef council

29 Jul, 2010 12:01 AM
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Members of the WA Beef Council: Ivan Rogers (front left), Mike Introvigne (back left), Robert Rouda, Mark Panizza, Mike Jackson, Renata Paliskis, John Mitchell, Tony Hiscock, John Fry, Steve Meerwald, Kurt Elezovich, Eric Broad, Peter Trefort, Craig Forsyth and Kevin Chennell.
Members of the WA Beef Council: Ivan Rogers (front left), Mike Introvigne (back left), Robert Rouda, Mark Panizza, Mike Jackson, Renata Paliskis, John Mitchell, Tony Hiscock, John Fry, Steve Meerwald, Kurt Elezovich, Eric Broad, Peter Trefort, Craig Forsyth and Kevin Chennell.

PRODUCERS grilled members of the Beef Council on its progress and intentions at a forum held in Bunbury on Tuesday.

About 30 producers, council members and other representatives from the beef industry gathered at the forum, which was followed by the Beef Council's third official meeting.

Chair Tony Hiscock announced that Cameron Morse, associate director of public relations company FD Third Person, had been appointed as the consultant to help the council investigate transparency through the supply chain.

The four areas the Beef Council would be concentrating on to begin with were communication, red tape reduction, benchmarking and sustaining current markets as well as developing new ones.

Kojonup beef producer Pam McGregor was one of the first producers to put forward a question to the council and wanted to know why there were two sections not represented on the council - the retail sector and beef consumers.

"The retail sector has not been forgotten," Mr Hiscock said.

"We can invite them to sit on the council and we can certainly discuss that possibility.

"It's a question of what representation we have there and who we approach."

As for the consumer representation, several council members agreed that consumer research done by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) was at its disposal and was more than adequate.

Another Kojonup producer, John Hewson, asked for the Beef Council's position on whether more money should be spent on developing a market for boxed beef.

Mr Hiscock said MLA's new marketing program may help that situation, however continuity of supply was a big issue which needed to be addressed before such markets could be developed.

"We need to address these fundamental issues," Mr Hiscock said.

"If processors pay more, we can give them a continuity of supply," Mr Hewson said.

"There needs to be a flow so people don't have to spend millions of dollars to buy cattle and infrastructure so they have somewhere to put those cattle for later on," Mr Hiscock said.

"Continuity of supply is a very big issue.

"It has to happen concurrently and we understand that.

"There is no quick fix, there are short term fixes but at the end of the day if we don't start looking at some of the fundamental issues that have been there for 20 years, we won't break out of the loop.

"We're all looking at these issues objectively and we all know if we don't address them, there won't be an industry."

Karridale producer Gary Buller put the onus back on processors and said it was all very well looking at the industry's problems, but many of those problems were at a processing level.

Mr Buller also questioned whether part of the council's mission statement was achievable, specifically the building of a world class, competitive beef supply chain in WA.

"I'd be happy if they could but most would be thankful just to be competitive on a national level," Mr Buller said.

Harvey Beef chief executive officer Mike Jackson said the beef market was very volatile and it was difficult to get 12 month contracts, even though the premise was a good one.

Hillside Meats owner and council member Peter Trefort said the beef industry in its current state reminded him of the lamb industry 15 years ago and change was needed.

"My favourite saying is that if you keep doing the same thing and expect a different result, that's the definition of lunacy," Mr Trefort said.

"This is only the third meeting, give us a chance to change things.

"Who makes the first step?

"Is it the processors? Because I'll tell you right now that not one processor in Australia is making money at the moment.

"I've lost $600,000 in the last 12 months.

"There are huge problems in the industry but I think things can change, let's just give it a go because without an aim, how do you shoot something."

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