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Cambinata claws out a successful niche

Crustaceans are abundant in the oceans off the WA coast, and live happily in the state’s rivers and dams. But when the owners of a traditional wheat and sheep farming property started marketing yabbies, it raised a few eyebrows.

The property at Kukerin, some 300 kilometres inland south east of Perth, is an unlikely place to find a crustacean processing and export establishment.

“At the beginning of the 90s, the recession ‘we had to have’ sent our income into reverse,” says Cambinata Yabbies manager/proprietor Mary Nenke.

“When wool prices hit rock bottom and the wheat prices went the same way, the yabbies we had always grown in our dams looked a viable option.”

But it wasn’t quite so easy – it was at a time when wholesalers had a glut.

“We had a telephone call from a local farming friend asking if we could supply yabbies to their relation’s restaurant in Perth,” Mrs Nenke said.

“We applied for a processor’s licence and began to supply the restaurant with twenty kilograms a week.

“Soon our friends and neighbours asked if we could market their yabbies, which meant we had to apply for a harvester’s licence. That’s how our local industry started in 1991.”

As with any new project, the development stages were not always easy for Ms Nenke and husband Michael.

In 1993, they had the opportunity to send yabbies to Singapore, but this proved a challenge.

Ms Nenke didn’t have a registered export establishment so she, Michael and their willing team of helpers made a 400 kilometre round trip by road to Pingelly to pack yabbies for sending offshore.

This was totally impractical, so plans were drawn up to build a new export facility on the property.

The new facility was opened on 6 October 1994 by Deputy Premier Hendy Cowan.

Ms Nenke said the company had quite a lot of help from the Australian Quarantine Inspection Services.

“We also worked closely with the WA Department of Com-merce and Trade,” she said.

“They pointed us in the right direction and provided us with plenty of connections in the right places.”

From these humble beginning, the local and export markets have grown and product is now being supplied to Sydney, Singapore and Hong Kong weekly, as well as other parts of Asia on a regular basis.

To service these markets, Ms Nenke buys yabbies from 400 farmers.

The next stage of Cambinata Yabbies production plant was opened on 19 March this year by Primary Industry Minister Monty House.

• This article is reproduced from the booklet Women in Business produced by the WA Department of Commerce and Trade.

To obtain copies, phone Sandra Daly on 9327 5576.

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