Countryman - - FRONT PAGE - Jenne Bram­mer

Solid in­ter­na­tional mar­ket de­mand has en­abled the WA Meat Mar­ket­ing Co-op­er­a­tive to de­liver a record pre-tax net profit (be­fore pool bonus) of $20.02 mil­lion for the 2017-18 year, while still pay­ing high prices to pro­duc­ers for their lambs and mut­ton.

The re­sult, un­veiled at yes­ter­day’s an­nual gen­eral meet­ing, marked a huge in­crease on a year ear­lier, when the co-op­er­a­tive de­liv­ered $2.6 mil­lion.

WAMMCO, which has plants in Katan­ning and Goul­burn in NSW, recorded con­sol­i­dated turnover of $380 mil­lion in 2017-18 af­ter pro­cess­ing more than two mil­lion an­i­mals, equally spilt between the two sites. Chief ex­ec­u­tive Coll MacRury said the re­sult en­abled a record pool bonus of $4.3 mil­lion to be re­bated to pro­duc­ers in Au­gust, based on 50¢/kg for qual­i­fy­ing lambs and 25¢/kg for qual­i­fy­ing mut­ton, while it would also in­vest in fur­ther im­prove­ments in the plant.

The co-op­er­a­tive paid an av­er­age of $135 per head of lamb and $97 per head of mut­ton. Mr MacRury said WAMMCO had pro­cessed some sheep that be­came avail­able as part of the live ex­port pause, but it had lit­tle im­pact on the year’s fi­nan­cial re­sults given the Katan­ning plant was closed in June for main­te­nance.

He said chal­lenges re­mained in sourc­ing staff, but he said ex­ist­ing staff reg­u­larly worked over­time, en­abling WAMMCO to drive pro­cess­ing costs to be­low bud­get lev­els dur­ing 2017-18.

“We have had trou­ble and have brought in some visa peo­ple to sup­ple­ment. It’s min­i­mal — 5 per cent of our 360-strong work­force,” he said.

He said if sheep live ex­ports “fell over”, WAMMCO would look more se­ri­ously at bring­ing in ex­tras from off­shore.

Look­ing for­ward, Mr MacRury said in­ter­na­tional lamb and mut­ton prod­uct prices should re­main rel­a­tively strong through­out the cur­rent fi­nan­cial year, though a slight in­crease in New Zealand lamb pro­duc­tion could put down­ward pres­sure on prices from Feb­ru­ary to May 2019.

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