Pastoralists say a new $60 million abattoir proposed for South Australia would be a “complete game changer” for producers throughout central Australia and provide a boost to local communities.
The majority Australian-owned company, Pirie Meats, will build the abattoir near Warnertown, just outside Port Pirie in the state’s Mid North.
It will process lamb, cattle, goats and possibly camels.
The facility will create 215 full-time jobs and another 150 secondary jobs linked to the project.
Final approvals for the project are being sought, with construction set to begin before the end of 2019.
The company expects to begin processing in 2020.
Pastoralists welcome news
Lambina Station pastoralist Gillian Fennell said the facility would have benefits throughout central Australia.
“To make money during dry times would make this region so much more sustainable.”
She said the reduced travel distance benefited animal welfare and reduce freight costs from her station, north-west of Oodnadatta.
She was sending most of her cattle to abattoirs at Naracoorte and Echucha, more than 1,000 kilometres away.
“Your cattle will be in better shape because they won’t have to travel as far, so there are higher returns for the producer … which means we’ll be more sustainable,” she said.
“It would mean so much to all associated agricultural areas in the region, there will also be people looking to buy more hay and grain to finish cattle.”
She said any savings would ultimately be determined by the abattoir’s prices.
Ms Fennell said any benefits would lead to reinvestment in individual businesses.
“We’re looking at saving $5,000–$6,000 a road train’s worth of cattle alone,” she said.
Billa Kalina pastoralist Colin Greenfield said any announcement that would reduce freight costs for producers in the far-north of South Australia was welcome.
Mr Greenfield said he was sending his cattle to Naracoorte, 1,100 kilometres away from his station — half way between Adelaide and Alice Springs.
“To have something closer than that would be very welcome and certainly for small stock, sheep and goats, there’s nothing north of Adelaide Hills of any capacity,” Mr Greenfield said.
“Assuming it all goes ahead and hopefully it does, it does give you more options when you’re marketing.
“It is certainly better freight-wise … and hopefully it leads to more competition in the market.”
But he said many would not be celebrating until the abattoir’s doors opened and the drought broke.
A long journey
Pirie Meats chief executive officer Reg Smyth said the plan had been about 10 years in the making.
“It’s been a long journey but we’re really looking forward to getting this started,” Mr Smyth said.
Many similar plans had been discussed by other companies looking to open a similar facility.
Mr Smyth said the facility would make a big difference for producers struggling with soaring freight costs in drought.
“If people want to get a service export, they have to go interstate … transporting up to 30 hours and that’s just not sustainable.
“It’s also an animal welfare issue as well and that’s why we chose Port Pirie.
Mr Smyth said the time frame of opening next year was “aggressive” but he was confident it would be done.
“We’re hoping to start processing the small stock by the next lambing season, mid 2020 … we think we can pull it off,” he said.
“We know it’s needed here and we hope we can stimulate a lot interest and commitment from producers — we really hope it makes a difference.”
The abattoir will service domestic and international markets and will be halal-certified.
“We have significant interest from China,” Mr Smyth said.
“The Middle East, Asia and North America are not out of the question.”
Drought a ‘risk’ for new business
Livestock SA CEO Andrew Curtis said the Mid North’s other abattoir at Peterborough was often at capacity, forcing producers to freight stock to the south-east.
“We’re pleased to see commitments to the industry and processing, and more choice for producers,” Mr Curtis said.
“Local processing capacity has been severely impacted by the fire at the Murray Bridge abattoir.
“To have something closer will have many benefits.”
But he said the drought could impact the business moving forward.
“I know work has been going on for a decade and so we can only assume that diligence has been done around supply of cattle and sheep into the works.
“But the whole country is in drought and cattle numbers are seriously depressed.
“We expect to come out of the drought but there will be pressure on for supply of cattle for processing for the next couple of years.”
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