FARMING groups expect that a fire early this week at a Western Meat Packers Group facility in O'Connor will have costly consequences for the state’s meat processing industry.
FARMING groups expect that a fire early this week at a Western Meat Packers Group facility in O’Connor will have costly consequences for the state’s meat processing industry.
“Western Meat Packers processes around 400 beef and 1,000 sheep a day at Margaret River, and value adds their carcases at the O’Connor boning room,” Pastoralists and Graziers Association meat and livestock chairman Tim D’Arcy said in a statement.
Mr D’Arcy said the devastation caused by the fire could lead to significant unemployment and blockages through the state’s meat processing chain.
“WA is already underserviced in processing capacity at this time of the year and this fire will exacerbate these problems,” he said.
“Thankfully there are no reported fatalities and the industry must now work together to ensure there is limited disruption due to this unforseen event.”
The throughput at Western Meatpackers was equal to about 25 per cent of the state’s daily beef production.
The sector’s major player is Harvey Industries Group, which operates as Harvey Beef and expanded last year by acquiring Fremantle City Processors.
Harvey Beef is believed to be operating two shifts a day and is near to full capacity, leaving few options for farmers who had been using Western Meat Packers.
“A lot of producers are asking, where they are going to sell their cattle,” PGA policy director pastoral and livestock Alex Burbury said.
Mr Burbury said the live cattle trade was an option but the high cost of transporting livestock was an issue for producers.
He said sheep meat producers would be less affected because there were several other high-volume processors in the state.
The damage bill from the fire at Western Meat Packers facility was estimated at $10 million.
About 140 people worked at the factory.
The Western Meat Packers Group, led by chief executive Rod Russell, was established in 1983 as a family business and has grown to become a major player in the meat industry.
The O’Connor site housed its head office and a boning room.
A second facility in Osborne Park incorporates a freezer complex and cold stores with a number of specialist processing areas.
The abattoir near Margaret River completed what it called “the tripartite of purpose built premises which enables us to operate as an autonomous entity in the meat industry”, according to the company web site.