PEAK meat processor body the Australian Meat Industry Council is seeking drought support for processors affected by the continuing drought, but will be told to approach the relevant State Governments first.
AMIC said it is calling on Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management David Littleproud to engage with industry as a matter of urgency to end uncertainty around water restrictions.
However, Mr Littleproud has told Sheep Central his office has no record of a meeting request from AMIC chief executive officer Patrick Hutchinson.
“However, had he made one, we would have immediately directed him to the relevant state government, as they hold responsibility for this matter.”
A number of NSW and south-east Queensland towns have been identified as being at risk of running out of water in the next 6-12 months and reaching ‘Day Zero’. NSW processors told Beef Central and Sheep Central about 10 days ago that water availability will become a more serious concern if dry conditions persist, although current operations were not affected.
However, AMIC said today regional jobs and industry are at risk as water supply crises threaten several towns and the council is calling for immediate government support to counter the devastating impact of any ‘Day Zero’ water supply crisis.
AMIC said it has been trying to connect with Mr Littleproud regarding drought support for processors at a time of high farm turn-off and demand for processing, which assists farmers and supports the rural and regional economy.
“We’re asking Littleproud to recognise other water users within regional and seek assistance to manage falling access to water, as well as work with us on solutions and also recognise us when putting millions into drought relief again but not recognising anyone but farmers, yet we process their outputs,” AMIC chief executive officer Patrick Hutchinson said.
He said meat processing is a major employer in several towns on the cusp of serious water shortages.
“Without water, these businesses can’t run, and that means jobs are in peril.”
AMIC said Tamworth, Dubbo, Orange, Warwick and Narromine are among the towns approaching ‘day zero’ water supply restrictions. AMIC has members operating processing facilities in each of these areas.
“No water means our members’ daily operational capacity diminishes. From washing stockyards through to sterilisers and hand washing to refrigeration and end of day cleaning operations, all will be at risk,” Mr Hutchinson said.
He said even with a strong focus on water efficiency, the sector simply cannot operate without reliable water supply. Some of the water use reduction strategies implemented by our members include water-saving equipment such as low flow/high-pressure taps and hoses, sensors on hand and apron wash stations and automated clean-in-place systems. Many processors are already capturing wastewater to reuse or recycle, using steriliser and handwash water to wash stockyards, water landscaped areas or clean trucks.
“Red meat processors have invested a huge amount of effort and money in water efficiency and the industry has made great steps forward in terms of reducing water use and recycling water,” Mr Hutchinson said.
“But at the end of the day, every business within the meat supply chain relies on water to deliver dependable, safe meat to all Australian homes and businesses.
“We’re very concerned that if this is not dealt with swiftly, we may see processors forced to reduce production, leading to job losses and potential plant closures,” he said.
“Once a facility is closed it is very difficult to get it up and running again, which would be devastating news for regional areas which are already under enormous pressure.”
AMIC is the peak council that represents retailers, processors, wholesalers and smallgoods manufacturers and is the only industry association representing the post-farmgate Australian meat industry.