THE number of red meat-related businesses in Australia dropped by more than 2000 from 2016-2017 to 2017-2018, according to statistics released by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) in the State of the Industry Report 2019, launched last week by the Red Meat Advisory Council (RMAC).
According to the report Australia has "slightly less than 80,300 red meat industry and livestock businesses, a decrease of two per cent on 2016-2017 levels, but up 4.6pc on the number of businesses in 2012-2013".
The decline in red meat related businesses could highlight the impact supermarket chains have had on small town butchers, as well as the increasing costs of doing business in Australia with high energy and water prices affecting processors.
Production businesses, including beef cattle, sheep, mixed farming and feedlots accounted for 96.2pc of all businesses within the red meat and livestock industry, while sales (retailing and wholesaling) accounted for 3pc and processing made up 0.8pc in 2017-2018.
The decline in overall business numbers from 2015-2016 came mainly from the processing, wholesaling and retailing sectors - which should raise concerns because of the number of people employed in these sectors.
All three of these sectors are at their lowest levels since 2012-1013.
The number of processors went from 714 in 2012-2013 up to a high of 815 the following year, before declining to 644 businesses in 2017-2018.
Wholesalers numbered 689 in 2012-2013 but dropped significantly by 2013-2014 to 558 before continuing to decline to 496 businesses in 2017-2018.
Retailers totalled 2276 across Australia in 2012-2013 before rising to 3150 in 2014-2015.
Last year they totalled 1938 businesses.
Western Australia made up 14pc of the total number of red meat and livestock-related businesses in 2017-2018 in the country.
The number of people employed within the red meat and livestock industry totalled 404,800 in 2017-2018, although only 172,400 people were directly employed in the industry.
The additional 232,400 people were employed in businesses servicing the red meat and livestock industry, including transporters, agents, animal health related services and farm input suppliers.
The number of people working directly in the industry dropped from its high of almost 200,000 in 2015-2016 to its lowest since (and about equal to) 2012-2013.
"In terms of direct employment in 2017-2018, the production sector (beef cattle, sheep and mixed farming - including live exports - and feedlots) accounted for just over 128,400 jobs, the processing sector almost 30,400 jobs, with the remainder in retailing and wholesaling," the report said.
WA made up 11pc of the total number of people directly employed within the industry in Australia, which was fourth behind New South Wales (29pc), Victoria (24pc) and Queensland (21pc).
Direct employment figures in the red meat and livestock industry make up just 1.5pc of Australia's key industry total employment.
"If both direct and indirect employment is taken into account, employment in the red meat and livestock industry represented approximately 3.6pc of Australia's key industry total employment in 2017-2018," the report said.
"Within agricultural production (the number) accounted for 27pc of Australia's total direct employment in agriculture production" - which included aquaculture, forestry and logging and fishing, hunting and trapping among others.
Employment in red meat manufacturing made up just 4pc of total manufacturing jobs in 2017-2018, while red meat retail and wholesale made up just 1pc of total sales related jobs in Australia.
Of the "major players in Australia's red meat processing sector", ranked by the amount of employees, Fletcher International Exports topped the list from WA ranking ninth overall with 657 employees, while the Craig Mostyn Group numbered 11th with 500 employees and the WA Meat Marketing Co-operative (WAMMCO) made the list at 14th with 348 employees.
The biggest processing employer in the country was JBS Australia and Australian Consolidated Food Investment with a total of 10,838 staff.