Senate inquiry into red meat processing calls for changes to address industry fears

Senators are calling for an overhaul of the red meat processing industry in an attempt to reform the sector.

Findings from the Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport call for changes to the saleyard pricing system and greater oversight of livestock agents.

Victorian Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie pushed for the inquiry and said the sector needed urgent changes.

“There is a culture of fear and intimidation in the industry and this report goes to some of the evidence of that,” she said.

“At the moment, producers don’t have confidence that they’re getting what their beast is valued at.”

The inquiry, which has been running for more than year, was launched after producers expressed outrage at two events.

The first was when nine agents mysterious failed to appear, or bid, at the first sale of a new saleyards at Barnawartha near Wodonga in northern Victoria.

The second was when the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission refused to block a takeover of Australia’s largest small goods maker, Primo, by Australia’s largest fresh meat processor, JBS.

Interim report includes five recommendations 

The interim report called for the creation of a transparent pricing mechanism at saleyards, and more disclosure and a reporting system for the wider industry.

The recommendations also include a registration and training system for livestock agents and the creation of an oversight body to receive formal complaints about agent behaviour.

Senator McKenzie said a recommendation for the Government to introduce legislation to prohibit concerted practices was important.

In response to allegations produced at senate hearings, the ACCC has launched its own inquiry into the red meat industry.