Trucking industry woes
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.