THE future of the Pittsworth and Killarney multi-species abattoirs on the Darling Downs remains in limbo following the sudden closure of both plants by owner Leitch Pastoral Group this week.
About 230 production staff at both plants were stood down on Monday.
A company spokesman said a further directive over the longer-term future of the plants would be issued Friday, but he stressed that the company was definitely not in receivership and neither plant was on the market.
Rumours about the financial position of the Leitch Pastoral abattoirs have circulated since August, but the company has continued to trade at a reduced level of activity since.
Operations manager Rob Doro said a combination of factors had placed the business in financial difficulty, including the ability to source suitable livestock and bad debts putting significant pressure on the business’s cash flow.
“The meat industry is tough at the best of times, but given the current climate, there is not a lot of spare money in the system,” he said.
“In the current economic environment, a number of our own debtors at the meat customer end have gone well and truly outside of our payment terms. That has put further pressure on the group, as a whole.”
Mr Doro also pointed to abundant cheap meat diverted out of export programs and disposed of at low prices in the domestic marketplace under shelflife pressure, as a contributing factor.
Asked about any outstanding funds owed to livestock suppliers, he said the company had tried to ‘rein in’ its own debtors.
The Pittsworth and Killarney plants are owned by Dudley Leitch as part of an integrated beef production, processing, wholesaling and retailing business.
Both factories are MSA licensed for beef and lamb.
Killarney has recently killed up to 250 cattle and 3000 smallstock daily and Pittsworth 100 cattle and 600-1000 smallstock.
While the beef kill is modest in the context of the broader beef industry, the company is one of the largest lamb processors in Queensland.
It sources mostly yearling type cattle from across the Darling Downs and New England and has also carried out some service kill for other wholesalers.
About 70pc of the plants’ output was as carcase meat with the remainder processed through the boning room as carton meat.
Pittsworth was purchased in 2006 and reopened after a $2 million upgrade completed in November that year.
Killarney was bought from its founders, the Hancock family in 2007, expanding in capacity to 400 cattle and 1800 sheep and lambs a day.
Leitch Pastoral’s Condamine River Meats wholesaling business and four retail butchery outlets in Brisbane continued to trade this week, at a reduced level.
Mr Doro would not comment on recent speculation that Pittsworth was ‘the more likely’ of the two to recommence killing operations, possibly as soon as next week.