Pic source: Wangaratta Chronicle
BY Jamie Kronborg
THE chief of the Northern Victoria Livestock Exchange has told a Senate inquiry into what has become known as the Barnawartha saleyard boycott that it could consider if controls might be imposed on the number of beef processors a commission buyer can represent at auction.
Garry Edwards, the managing director of Regional Infrastructure Pty Limited, which operates the saleyards, told the rural and regional affairs references committee in Canberra last week that the number of processors attending prime or fat cattle sales had continued to decline in the past few years.
The inquiry is investigating the effects in the livestock market of consolidation in buyer competition.
It is claimed 10 buyers acting for meat processors boycotted the opening prime cattle sale at what was then the new NVLX on February 17 this year.
Prices were estimated at the time to have dropped 20-30 cents per kilogram at the 2000-head sale.
Regional Infrastructure, a private company, operates NVLX as one of a number that its controls in Queensland, NSW and Victoria.
Mr Edwards said that company facilitated the transaction of 780,000 cattle and 2.35 million sheep and lambs through these saleyards.
“The number of buyers attending prime or fat sales has continued to decline in the past few years while store sales continue to have a large number of buyers in attendance,” he told the committee, which includes Victorian Nationals’ Senator Bridget McKenzie, who championed the inquiry.
He said there had been a drop in processors’ sale attendance because of a contraction in the number of meat companies and meat processing facilities in eastern Australia.
But this was “notably as a result of more commission buyers” acting on behalf of a number of meat companies, Mr Edwards said.
In response to questions from Senator McKenzie and fellow Senator John Williams (Nationals, NSW), Mr Edwards said there remained strong competition across all market categories.