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Study Backs Queensland Abattoir

23 February 2012

AUSTRALIA - An abattoir in North Queensland would reduce live transport, minimise animal welfare and improve the outlook for regional graziers.

Minister for Food, Agriculture and Regional Economies, Tim Mulherin, joined the Member for Mount Isa, Betty Kiernan, in Cloncurry yesterday to release a study into the commercial viability of a northern outback Queensland meat processing facility.

Mr Mulherin said the report, jointly funded by the Queensland and Commonwealth Governments, supports establishing a new beef abattoir in North West Queensland.

"A new abattoir in Northern Queensland would have obvious benefits for local graziers," said Mr Mulherin.

"This new report supports an abattoir in North West Queensland for a number of reasons, but primarily to improve the outlook for regional graziers and reduce costs particularly with transporting live animals," Mr Mulherin said.

"While there is currently adequate existing processing capacity, abattoirs are too far from north-western production areas to offset transport costs.

"The report states that the Cloncurry area would offer the greatest benefit per head of cattle for graziers with cuts of up to $40 a head.

"An abattoir in Cloncurry could potentially process up to 100,000 beasts per year.

"Northern Australia is in an excellent position to capitalise on rising demand for beef in parts of Asia and the Middle East.

"A new abattoir would significantly reduce live transport, minimising animal welfare and driver fatigue issues," he said.

Member for Mount Isa Betty Kiernan has welcomed the report.

"Last year saw the level of vulnerability in our region in regard to Live Exports," Mrs Kiernan said.

"This report provides a starting point for the future sustainability of one of the major industries in my electorate.

"Around 700,000 head of cattle are sent from the Gulf and MITEZ south for finishing and processing - so there's enormous potential.

"The report states Cloncurry would be well positioned given that it has good major road access to northwest Queensland and eastern Northern Territory production areas.

"This study shows that a new meatworks could improve the outlook for beef businesses in North West Queensland.

"While there will be challenges, I am confident a new meat processing facility will have great local economic opportunities and be welcomed by the community," she said.

Mr Mulherin said the report says Cloncurry is the most likely commercially viable location and it is now up to commercial operators to grasp the opportunity.

"This report provides commercial operators the impetus to progress an abattoir, which the report suggests would cost about $49 million to develop.

"The next step is for local, state and federal Government's to look at what infrastructure and regulatory assistance can be provided to help make this commercial opportunity a reality in Cloncurry."

Chairman of beef producers' group NorthBeef, Rob Atkinson, said the sector would welcome the study's findings with cautious optimism.

"I think a report like this is something the northern beef industry has been wanting for quite a while," Mr Atkinson said.

"Now we're looking for some outside investment or a joint venture. We're leaving all our options open.

"Something has to change because if the next ten years are like the last ten years, the cost of production will make it very hard to stay profitable. Producers are definitely interested in what this report has to say."

The report was commissioned last year by the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI), supported by the Mount Isa Townsville Economic Zone (MITEZ), Gulf Savanna Development (GSD), Northbeef and with funding support from the Australian Government, the Northern Outback Queensland Abattoir Study.

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