The National Farmer’s Federation (NFF) has reiterated the importance of an integrated cattle industry free to take advantage of an array of market opportunities following calls for a cap on live cattle exports.
Restrictions on the live trade were this week proposed by the Australian Meat Industry Employees’ Union (AMIEU) which claims jobs in northern abattoirs have been lost or placed on hold as a result of tight stock supply and competition from the live export sector.
NFF President Brent Finlay said severe drought had constrained cattle numbers across some of the key cattle producing regions of the Australia.
“A number of consecutive years of dry conditions, in what was one of the worst droughts on record, has led to the heavy constriction of stock numbers due to significant destocking,” Mr Finlay said.
“The national herd is at a 20-year low and this is something that will clearly have an impact on the ability to meet supply as cattle producers now move through a phase of rebuilding.”
Mr Finlay said it was short-sighted to attempt to limit market opportunities and choices as suggested by the AMIEU and was further disappointed by comments made by Senator Glenn Lazarus questioning the positive impact of recently finalised Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).
“An integrated industry, in which each link in the supply chain works collaboratively, will always be stronger than a fragmented sector,” he said.
“Any moves to artificially control demand from one market will erode the prosperity of the sector into the future – a future which is forecast to hold substantial increases in demand for our premium agricultural products.”
Australian agriculture is entering a new growth phase and is likely to generate $1.2 trillion between now and 2030, while this year alone, agriculture is predicted to reap a record farm-gate return of $57.6 billion.
“The entire agricultural industry, not just beef, should be heartened by unprecedented global demand for Australian food and fibre and recognise the opportunities to capture the value of this demand which lay ahead,” Mr Finlay said.
“We need a collaborative approach to making sure all segments of our industry are profitable, particularly at this time when we have a diversity of market opportunities like never before.
“Our focus should be squarely on working with Government and other stakeholders in reducing barriers to trade, maximising production efficiencies and reducing regulatory costs while embracing innovation to underlie a robust industry that is prosperous for all in the long-term.”