The proposal for a beef processing plant to be constructed in Hughenden received a major boost on Monday with investors saying they’re eager to see the facility operating by early 2018.
Close to 230 producers and beef industry related representatives attended the public meeting held in Hughenden to hear the latest news on the proposal from Flinders Shire Council mayor Greg Jones; NorthBEEF Chairman Rob Atkinson and DSCY (Aust) Investments Pty Ltd chairman Mr Wang.
Cr Jones said he was very pleased with how the meeting proceeded and was excited to see a diverse spread of guests in attendance which included several Hughenden business owners and residents eager to learn more about the project.
“We had producers, members of banking institutions and major livestock companies present, which shows how much enthusiasm there is for this project to go ahead,” he said.
“It was Mr Wang’s first time here, and he was very impressed with what he saw and heard, he said with considerable confidence that they’ll go ahead with their investment.
“DSCY want to start producing as soon as possible, and though we haven’t tied everything down yet we hope to have the contract signed by June/July this year for the plant to be built and operational by February 2018.”
He said council commenced working on the town planning approvals at the proposed site in the Town Common with the investors during their visit.
“We’re full steam ahead now, we’ll have another meeting in March in Townsville and then Mr Wang will return to Hughenden in April for a tour of the catchment area.”
He said council and NorthBEEF are in agreement with the investors that as many jobs as possible will be filled locally when the plant is up and running.
“We’ll be holding talks with schools across the north west to organise a training program for students that will be graduating around the time the facility will open so everything will be in place to have a fully trained workforce in place straight up.”
He said the project will be tremendous for the beef industry in the whole of north and north west Queensland and will create immense economic and social benefits to the Hughenden community in particular and the region in general.
NorthBEEF now has the job of negotiating sound cattle supply agreements and pricing structures with producers, both of which will be essential to securing livestock supply of up to 180,000 annually needed for the plant.
Mr Atkinson said for years the beef processing industry has moved away from production areas, concentrating on coastal locations, and that this project will reverse that trend.
“Our industry is dominated by several large international processors. The emergence of DSCY, offers our industry more processor competition, something we have been lacking in northern Australia for decades,” he said.
He said the project is different to any other beef processing plant in Australia, because all product processed through the plant is bound for the Chinese market.
“That not only includes all beef product, but also offal, bone and hide.
“This is unique and it is why we are developing a pricing grid that is vastly different to grids offered by other processors. It’s to be a quarter plant, where beef quarters are exported, and further processing is carried out in China.”
He said Hughenden’s location is one of the reasons it’s so suitable for a processing facility.
“The 700km catchment radius covers an enormous cattle supply area and the current road system feeds directly into Hughenden.
“Once the Hann Highway and the Torrens Creek to Barcaldine Road is completely sealed, large areas to the north and south will have near all weather access to the plant.”
He said six-deck road trains will be able to access the plant as well which is something that isn’t offered anywhere else in the Eastern states.
The ball began rolling for the project after a 2012 DEEDI study identified Hughenden, out of 10 Queensland towns, as the preferred location for a plant based on availability of the right category and class of cattle.
Producers within the catchment area for the proposed plant would gain as much as a 65 per cent reduction in livestock transport costs compared to transporting cattle to east coast plants or to live export destinations.
A beef plant at Hughenden could also realise savings of up to $400,000 per annum through reduced carcass shrink and carcass bruising.
Mr Wang said he believes the project has a great future.
“The FTA signed between China and Australia, has built up a strong foundation for our investment,” he said.
“China has always had a massive demand for beef, and the market has a huge supply gap, we have 1.4 billion people and beef is one of our traditional meats.”
He said Australian beef has a very high reputation in Chinese people’s minds, it represents green, healthy and quality guaranteed.
“Our company is aiming for common prosperity with local producers. We hope during this collaboration, all parties involved receive the benefits.”