Red meat’s bang-for-buck policy solutions

RMAC hands the government a 'how to' list on its 2018 priorities

RAPIDLY securing ratifications to realise the gains from the new trans-Pacific trade deal, knocking down the raft of technical barriers still hindering beef exporters and ensuring all hands are on deck to position Australia strongly in the wake of Brexit.

These are just a few of the big ticket items where the red meat supply chain is looking for substantial government action in 2018.

Overarching industry body the Red Meat Advisory Council (RMAC) took it’s just-released Feeding Our Nation report, which showcases what it calls “bang-for-buck policy solutions” to new Agriculture Minister David Littleproud this morning.

The report lists dozens of succinct ways the government can act to create growth across Australia’s 75,000 red meat business.

It’s priorities have been listed under four key banners: expanding trade and investment; the wellbeing of people and livestock; better policy settings and supply chain collaboration.

Underlying the case RMAC is prosecuting is the fact global demand for red meat is growing and Australia has a superb product capable of supplying the higher end of that market but is struggling to grow production.

RMAC chair Don Mackay said given the industry’s national contribution of food security, economic activity and export revenue, it was crucial the Australian Government joined in to tackle the challenge of making supply chains more robust and competitive.

Trade was a key issue, he said, and that was not just about free trade agreements.

The red meat export sector has identified a whopping $3.4 billion in lost opportunity cost due to ongoing and continually emerging technical barriers.

“Everything from shelf life to labelling to particular elements of production - the limited number of accredited plants with chilled access to China for example - are stopping us from doing business,” Mr Mackay said.

“Often they are little things that in and of themselves don’t seem like a big deal but combined add up to a bucket of money.”

RMAC wants technical barriers addressed by a newly-formed industry-government working group.

Mr Mackay also highlighted the need for action on skyrocketing energy costs, which abattoirs estimate has doubled in the past year and feedlots tell a similar story, along with the costs of regulation.

The report says regulation compliance is costing livestock businesses anywhere from 5 to 25 per cent of the total profit margin.

Mr Mackay said there was also a very poor rate of commercialisation and adoption.

Reforms in this area have the potential to return $2.11 billion to the Australian red meat and livestock industry by 2030, according to the report.

RMAC also wants the labour shortage addressed.

“We desperately need to get to a point where we don’t have large agricultural operations relying on short term visa people - there is a lot wrong with that, from poor productivity to occupational health and safety issues,” he said.

Fundamental changes to way agriculture was viewed, not just red meat, was required, he said.

RMAC chief executive officer Anna Campbell and chair Don Mackay with Ag Minister David Littleproud.

RMAC’s leaders felt they received a good reception.

“We have a brand new minister who is looking to do lots of listening and I believe we are aligned in what we want to achieve,” Mr Mackay said.

“We have had a great start to the year with the announcement of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership - let’s build on this for a bigger and better year for true Aussie red meat, our customers and our businesses.”

The report can be seen here.

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