A MINIMUM price of $4 a kilogram is what the beef industry needs to address the underlying debt issues facing many within their ranks, according to Gulf Cattleman’s Association president Barry Hughes.
He was one of the 220 people who attended the rural debt crisis summit dubbed Winton’s Last Stand, partly to hear more from QUT Business School senior lecturer Dr Mark McGovern.
“I heard him speak in St George in February and what he said there - that the men and women in agriculture had done nothing wrong, it was the system failing them - that struck me,” Mr Hughes said.
“The commodity price has to be part of fixing the problem – we need to start talking about the price we need.”
Mr Hughes said that while $3/kg would enable the northern beef industry to pay half its debt burden, paying it all down and having enough capital to reinvest in infrastructure and contribute to socio-economics was where the conversation should start.
“I think $4/kg is not out of the question.”
It was a line of thinking pursued by Flinders Shire Council deputy mayor and strong advocate for northern beef processing and water initiatives, Ninian Stewart-Moore.
“JBS and Teys command 80 per cent of the processing capacity in the eastern states and we go cap in hand as price takers,” he said.
“They’ve shifted the competition to the wharf, to the people who want the processed product. It’s difficult for governments to address, encouraging other players to come in, but I think they should look more at competition laws.”
Mr Hughes and Mr Stewart-Moore both hailed the summit in Winton as a way of getting city voters to learn about the magnitude of the problem facing rural producers.
According to the Gulf Cattleman’s debt survey conducted in August, the average debt burden of producers is $4.2 million.
Land values have fallen 22pc and debt burdens have increased by 28pc.
“A price of $3/kg will fall short by a substantial amount,” Mr Hughes said.