Fletcher pushes one sheep body case at Lambex 2018

Terry Sim, August 6, 2018

Processor Roger Fletcher at Lambex 2018.

ONE sheep industry body, and a 20 percent lift in lamb and wool production within five years, were the challenges issued to Lambex 2018 delegates in Perth last night.

Sheep meat processor Roger Fletcher told producers at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre that Australia’s wool and lamb industry had the potential to grow production by 20 percent in the next five years.

The Lambex 2018 sponsor and Fletcher International Exports director told delegates the sectors had to be ready to lift production.

“So that means we’ve got to stretch to markets around the world, find different ways of handling the animal.

“We could cut a lamb up and it could go to 62 customers – that’s from the skin to the wool to right across the board,” he said.

In his address, Mr Fletcher reflected on the impact of transport changes on WA sheep meat exports, from container shipments and the “cleaning up of the wharves” to the increase in lamb carcase air freight, from 250,000 lambs in 2004 to 2.8 million in the last year.

He outlined several “warnings” to the industry about not listening to customers, including the failure of the Australia’s Reserve Price Scheme for wool, historical over-production of lambs by New Zealand crashing prices, and the establishment and later rationalisation of council-owned abattoirs across Australia.

He said the combined value of Australia’s sheep meat and wool exports was equivalent to the beef industry, with exports of sheep meat, wool and by-products worth 8-9 billion dollars a year.

“But I do not understand why the sheep industry (meat and wool) is not under one banner.

“The advantage of that is to get closer to government and we can move faster,” he said.

“And the other thing we’ve got to clean up is the amount of splinter organisations in the sheep industry.

“If you go across the country, there are about 50 different people who think they’ve got a say in it and then they got to government and the poor old minister and his lackeys are lost,” Mr Fletcher said.

“I think the quicker we do that, it is the only we are going to get out of it.

“I know a lot of people in the room are not going to agree with me, but we will die if we don’t live,” he said.

“I have a saying in our company, ‘if you’ve been doing it one way for 10 years you are doing it wrong, you should have improved and done better’.

“We should have one strong board in the sheep industry with no Brahman and Northern Territory people telling us how to run our shindig, we don’t go up there and tell them how to run their cattle – that’s got to change – even that sheep agrees,” Mr Fletcher said, as a ewe bleated in the background.

He said one sheep body would give more marketing strength. Australia as the leading global sheep meat exporter also had to help other countries, but he said the industry’s organisations spent too much looking after their savings than on what to do with it. Mr Fletcher also put a case for expenditure on helping farmers prepare for drought.

”What we really need is one board, the best people on the board, and unfortunately to get the best people on the board, they can’t be wasting a massive amount of time on it.

“They’ve got to given the right figures and the right deals and then they can go to government and go forward,” he said.

“I think that’s the greatest thing the sheep industry can do; get under one roof, keep away from the rest and we’ll go forward.

“We’ve got power in government at the present, the wool industry on its own is not big enough, the sheep meat industry is not big enough.”

AWGA and SPA welcome one sheep body debate

Australian Wool Growers Association director Martin Oppenheimer said Mr Fletcher was “speaking the truth about what needs to happen for the Australian sheep industry.”

“We’ve got one sheep, but we pay two levies and we have two organisation.

“And within those organisation you split into marketing and research, so that by the time the effect hits the ground, it’s quite diluted,” he said.

“To have one industry organisation that is responsible for the marketing and research would be a real step forward for Australia and the Australian sheep industry.”

Sheep Producers Australia’s independent chair Chris Mirams said the state farming organisations were enthusiastic about SPA and WoolProducers Australia continue to talk about combining into one organisation.

“We certainly look forward to re-visiting that with a great degree of enthusiasm.

“Australian Wool Innovation and Meat & Livestock Australia as one RDC is a fascinating thing to consider – Richard Norton has been very open in his view about that,” he said.

“I understand that the minister’s office and the department have been looking at the RDC and we look forward to seeing what happens there, but again that’s a question for industry and government.”

Lambex 2018 chair Bindi Murray said the event, running from August 6-8, had attracted delegates from New Zealand, South Africa, the United States, the United Kingdom, France and throughout Australia.

She said there were currently 970 people registered for Lambex and she still had hopes of reaching 975, “which will be one more than Albury (Lambex 2016).”


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  1. San Jolly, August 7, 2018

    One organisation = enormous power and control. Take the example of the comment about Brahmans. Great idea if you sit at the top of the tree.

  2. Donald Hamblin, August 6, 2018

    As an ex-WoolProducers Australia president, I totally agree with Mr Fletcher with having one sheep R&D company, by merging the sheep part of MLA with AWI and having one national sheep lobby group by merging SPA and WPA.

    It is up to each of the state farming organisation that are members of SPA and WPA to start the ball rolling. And it is necessary for the sheep membership of their respective state farming organisations to support this as well.

  3. Grant Burbidge, August 6, 2018

    What is needed is one R&D company/organisation for all ruminants — sheep, beef and dairy.
    We all use pasture-based systems, with animals selected with the same genomic methods to produce different products. Leave generic marketing to those who have the conviction it works and who are willing to fund it themselves. It is R&D which will deliver the greatest returns to all ruminant producers.

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