Friday, February 5, 2010

BEEF INDUSTRY FORUM

The “Beef’s New Direction” forum to be held at the University of New England Armidale on 27 February is expected to attract over 1200 beef producers to discuss the challenges facing the beef industry today and to find some workable solutions.

The forum will be chaired by 2GB presenter Alan Jones, and the speakers will include State Member for New England Richard Torbay, Senator Bill Heffernan, Senator Barnaby Joyce and AMIEU President Grant Courtney.

The focus will be on halting the decline in rural and regional Australia, the fall in cattle prices and lifting the burden on producers imposed by government influenced costs and charges and industry levies which place Australian cattle producers at a disadvantage relative to their international competitors.

Despite the industry now spending $160 million a year on MLA, cattle prices have fallen 21.6pc since 1988-89 according to ABARE figures. The fall in domestic beef consumption is equally alarming, having fallen from 43.2kg per person in 1989 to 31.3 kg last year as forecasted by MLA. Since the introduction of MSA in 1998 consumption has fallen by almost 7kg.

MLA Chairman David Palmer’s response is to blame low prices on factors outside the control of producers and the MLA. He cites currency fluctuations and weak foreign markets as the cause of the recent low cattle prices (see The Land, 21 January, “Stop the beef ‘bulldust’”).

But if prices are truly beyond influence from the efforts of producers and industry bodies, what is the point of spending levy money on domestic marketing programs and market access initiatives? What exactly are producers paying MLA to achieve on their behalf?

Most producers disagree with Mr Palmer’s conclusion that the fate of the beef industry is beyond our control.

For those of us who are not willing to throw our hands in the air and allow reasonable cattle prices to become an historical curiosity, the focus must be on efforts to strengthen the domestic market.

This includes implementing the Torbay legislation passed last year, which aims to restore consumer confidence in beef products by ensuring meaningful and truthful labelling.

These and other issues will be the subject of discussion at the Armidale Forum. Further information, bus timetables and maps of Armidale can be found on the Bindaree Beef website: http://www.bindareebeef.com.au/

If you are a cattle producer or otherwise involved in the beef industry and are concerned about the state of your industry, turn up at the Armidale Forum and vote for a new direction.

RSVP can be emailed to: info@bindareebeef.com.au

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