Low numbers force abattoir into lull

Talitha WolfeAlbany Advertiser

Abattoir production has hit a seven-year low, with Fletcher International WA scaling back output earlier than anticipated.

The Albany-based plant was forced to halve production earlier this month because of livestock supply issues.

About 50 people have lost their jobs, with the remaining employees on a roster system.

Production usually slows in the lead-up to the annual shutdown period from June-July but general manager Greg Cross said this was the worst lull in supply since 2011.

“I had a feeling this was going to be a tough year,” he said. “I didn’t realise it was going to be this tough. The industry is becoming more and more seasonal because of lack of numbers.

“Unless there is a positive change to diminishing numbers, it’s probably the shape of things to come.”

However, Mr Cross recently obtained a licence to process goats at the abattoir.

He said the expansion of processing would help maintain production while other livestock numbers remained low.

“It’s a good opportunity for producers and farmers on rangelands , it gives them another avenue,” Mr Cross said.

“The market is strong ... there is a big demand in the USA and Middle East.” An controversial advocate for foreign investment, Mr Cross said the industry needed to look at addressing low numbers of livestock Statewide.

“If the current numbers trends continue and if we don’t turn it around in 10 years time, we will probably be getting protein from imported goods or out of a can,” he said.

“It’s a growing population and there are demands of protein by the way of meat.”

Mr Cross said high wool prices, low wheat prices and high prices and demand for lambs were also contributing to the lower livestock numbers, with many farmers retaining their ewes for wool or breeding.

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