Floods impact on abattoirs
MAJOR floods in Queensland are having a major impact on Northern Rivers abattoirs, Northern Co-operative Meat Company boss Gary Burridge said.
Increased flood assistance grants, being extended by the Federal Government to Queensland producers through its State Government, should also be offered to Northern Rivers producers, Mr Burridge said.
A shortage of beef cattle and pigs coming from Queensland farms cut off by floodwaters, combined with local flooding over Christmas had forced the co-op to scrap plans to continue operating between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
The co-operative’s abattoirs at Casino and Booyong were back up and running but at a reduced capacity as Queensland struggled with the aftermath of the massive floods.
The meatworks was Casino’s biggest employer, providing jobs to nearly 1000 people while the Booyong piggery employed about 400.
Mr Burridge said both relied on Queensland producers for stock. The Casino meatworks took cattle from areas as distant as Far North Queensland.
“So a situation like this impacts on us all and on other processors to the north as well.”
The number of cattle and pigs going through the local abattoirs was down about 20 per cent, Mr Burridge said.
While not a drastic reduction, it was enough to make life difficult for the co-operative. The biggest problem was getting stock to the abattoirs through roads closed by flooding.
Primary producers on both sides of the border would need a leg-up to recover from flooding, he said.
“I think primary producers will need help. They have to rebuild and re-establish themselves.
“These producers have to muster their cattle, they may have to supplement feed for the cattle too.”
Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced on Monday grants of up to $25,000 for small businesses and primary producers in Queensland to help them get back on their feet.
They would also be eligible for concessional loans of up to $250,000.
Page MP Janelle Saffin said she had spoken to Ms Gillard about extending that offer to Northern Rivers farmers, many of whom faced a devastating season after heavy rains damaged harvests and prevented plantings, before the Christmas floods cut a swathe through what the little the farmers had managed to put in the ground.
Ms Gillard had been “positive” about the idea, but Ms Saffin said the detail of any decision had to be worked out between the NSW Government and the Commonwealth.
A spokeswoman for NSW Emergency Services, Primary Industries and Rural Affairs Minister Steve Whan yesterday said the NSW and federal governments were discussing increased aid to NSW farmers.