Live­stock car­ri­ers are still truck­ing

Central and North Rural Weekly - - NEWS - Kirstin Payne

BE­FORE LNG, be­fore min­ing, agri­cul­ture stood strong as the back­bone of the Aus­tralian econ­omy.

But un­for­tu­nately con­sec­u­tive droughts, com­pet­i­tive im­port prices and a live ex­port ban have weak­ened the once-sturdy mar­ket.

This month, 500 meat­work­ers in south-east Queens­land were told they would lose their jobs af­ter the Churchill Abat­toir in Ya­manto an­nounced its clo­sure for Septem­ber.

This news came in con­junc­tion with an an­nounce­ment from Wulku­raka poul­try pro­cess­ing fac­tory Ba­iada sug­gest­ing it would also wind back op­er­a­tions next month to close in Jan­uary, af­fect­ing about 400 work­ers.

While the news of 900 work­ers out of their jobs may be shock­ing, the phe­nom­e­non isn’t new.

In July last year, Queens­land’s largest sheep-pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity also closed its doors, and a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion is evolv­ing in Western Aus­tralia.

How­ever for the peo­ple who con­nect the meat pro­cess­ing in­dus­try to the man on the land, the clo­sures are for­tu­nately hav­ing a lim­ited im­pact.

Live­stock and Ru­ral Trans­porters As­so­ci­a­tion of Queens­land president Ian Wilde says pro­duc­ers were still re­cov­er­ing from low stock num­bers.

“The in­dus­try is still in re­cov­ery mode, re­ally. The farm­ers are try­ing to build up num­bers again with the prospect of an­other dry sum­mer loom­ing,” Ian said.

“Stock prices have eased con­sid­er­ably in the last six months or so, which has made it a bit eas­ier for pro­ces­sors, but un­for­tu­nately that hasn’t been enough at the right time to help save Ip­swich’s predica­ment.”

Ian said a num­ber of abat­toirs were on re­duced kills in a bid to keep a con­stant flow of work.

“It prob­a­bly sounds a bit mer­ce­nary, but as car­ri­ers we aren’t as likely to be im­pacted by it,” he said.

“Stock still needs a place to go and it is up to us to move them – might be fur­ther, might be shorter.

“It is a shame to see the end of a long-es­tab­lished plant like the Ip­swich one, which started its life as a pub­lic-run abat­toir and has kept the com­mu­nity go­ing.”

Mr Wilde said the re­silience of the in­dus­try was down to the hard yards the driv­ers en­dured.

“Be­tween the de­pressed num­ber of stock, the rules and reg­u­la­tions, an­i­mal wel­fare – it is just a far harder job to do now.

“We don’t have many com­ing up be­cause it is all too hard, too long and too dirty.”

FAC­ING THE FU­TURE: The live­stock trans­port in­dus­try re­mains re­silient, de­spite the clo­sure of ma­jor abat­toirs.

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