Price drops a concern for sheepmeat industry


NSW Farmers is concerned by dramatic price drops in the sheepmeat and goat industries, which have been caused by sudden disruptions to the processing landscape. 

Critical Victorian processing plants have been forced to close or operate below capacity amid Covid-19 restrictions, contributing to softening returns for farmers. 

NSW Farmers President James Jackson said this change comes at a critical stage for NSW producers, many of whom are looking to recover from the economic impacts of drought. 

“It’s not uncommon for producers to have held on to stock during the drought, absorbing the costs of feed with the expectation prices would rise and they’d be able to recoup losses afterward,” Mr James Jackson said. 

“Livestock producers are going to have limited numbers of stock to market in the rebuilding period post drought. It would be particularly cruel for producers who have spent a fortune on keeping animals going through the drought to be denied a fair return on the stock they have to market because of labour issues in the processing industry.”

“Earlier in the year, lamb prices were sitting around $9 a kilogram, while now they’re closer to $5 a kilogram.”

“Producers who purchased store lambs earlier in the year are also set to lose out, facing much lower market prices despite fattening and improving the stock.”

Mr Jackson said there are a number of workforce factors influencing the current situation, which need to be rectified in order for vital food production to continue. 

“A high percentage of workers in processing plants are from overseas on short term visas. The crisis has meant some are no longer able to stay in Australia,” he said. 

“Others have simply had their access to work impeded by the restrictions and quarantine requirements.”

“We need appropriate permit systems for agriculture to ensure flow of workforce across borders, and we need solutions around entry visas.”

“Processing plants have high fixed overheads, so they can’t afford workplace disruptions like these,” Mr Jackson concluded. 

Date: Monday, 7 September 2020
Media Contact:  Michael Burt  | 0428 228 988 | burtm@nswfarmers.org.au