THE future of the Boyanup Saleyards, as well as talk about selling the Muchea Livestock Centre (MLC) will be raised when industry stakeholders meet with Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan in March.
A replacement location for the Boyanup saleyard is yet to be found with the saleyard lease to expire in 2022.
Late last year Ms MacTiernan said the State government would consider putting the MLC up for sale as part of a deal to build a new Boyanup facility.
WAFarmers livestock section president David Slade said his organisation didn’t support the suggested sale of MLC to fund a replacement for the Boyanup saleyard, saying it was non-negotiable from an industry point of view.
He said while the MLC may be owned by the Western Australian Meat Industry Authority, the industry was a major stakeholder in its existence – after producers contributed so much time and finances toward the building and maintenance of the infrastructure of the Midland yards before they were sold and Muchea built in 2010.
Mr Slade said because of the contribution by producers, the State government had a moral obligation to honour the agreements that were made at the time to divert funds from the Midland sale to the other saleyards, including the Boyanup saleyards.
Before the government considers selling Muchea there needed to be extensive consultation with producers to ensure the money doesn’t disappear into treasury coffers.
“There is a whole level of detail which we will investigate and discuss with the Agriculture Minister regarding the rights of any one party being able to sell the Muchea facility,” Mr Slade said.
“Further, if Muchea does end up in the hands of a private enterprise, this could potentially see a significant increase in selling costs for all livestock producers.
“We acknowledge that the government has, as yet, not endorsed the report, nor committed to a policy of selling Muchea and we would urge them not to support the recommendations outlined in the report.
“Instead, we recommend that a green field site is purchased as soon as possible, so that a new state-of-the-art agricultural precinct can be developed in the South West.”
Mr Slade said Ms MacTiernan had acknowledged the clear support from South West producers to replace the Boyanup saleyards.
“In 2009, the government of the day recognised the importance of investing in the saleyard network across WA,” he said.
“WAFarmers has continued to advocate for funding to be directed to the development of a new agricultural precinct, but after nearly a decade this is yet to come to fruition.
“State government investment into a new precinct would go a long way towards improving biosecurity protocols in the South West, which is undergoing resurgence due to strong demand for red meat from Asian markets.
“As part of its consultation with producers and other stakeholders ahead of the closure of Boyanup, we strongly encourage the government to move towards developing this innovative agricultural precinct, as it would provide a clear opportunity to capitalise on consumer demand.”
Ms MacTiernan responded to WAFarmers saying that “given the tough fiscal environment WA faces, any new South West saleyard would need to be predominantly privately-funded”.
“The State government is willing to consider options that would make private investment in such a facility more viable – one of those options includes linking construction of a new facility in a package with the MLC,” Ms MacTiernan said.
“We will not go down this route if industry opposes the idea, but I would encourage industry to take a creative approach to this situation and the need for a new South West facility.
“No decision has been made yet as to the best course forward and no decision has been made to sell Muchea.
“We will continue to consult with industry bodies and local producers, including at our South West forum in March, ahead of the closure of Boyanup in 2022.”
Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA (PGA) Western Beef and Sheep Producers chairman Chris Patmore said the PGA hadn’t come to an official position on the issue of the Boyanup saleyards and was looking forward to open discussions with Ms MacTiernan in the coming months.
“We are keen to see a replacement saleyard in Boyanup, but we understand the financial situation of the government,” Mr Patmore said.
When discussing the possible sale of the Muchea centre Mr Patmore said “there’s no harm in having a look at it” – so long as “strict guidelines are built in” – but producers were “under no obligation to accept it”.
He said the last thing producers needed was MLC falling into the wrong hands and being run down, or with cost increases which excluded smaller producers from selling there.
Mr Patmore said the PGA had no position on the site of a future Boyanup saleyards and could understand the arguments from producers and processors.
He said as long as the new site was sustainable and suited the majority of stakeholders and the facility was flexible enough to be used for more than one thing, it would be a good investment for the future of the industry.