WESTERN Australian consumers are paying the highest price ever for their beef, according to the Australian Cattle Council. Vice-president and Western Australian spokesperson Tim D'Arcy said local prices were as high as beef from the eastern states. "A significant amount of the beef we get is imported from the eastern states, so you've got a cartage on that beef as well," he said. "WA consumers are paying the highest price effectively that has ever been paid for their beef." Mr D'Arcy said high prices were the result of a monopoly in Western Australia by processor Harvey Beef and poor marketing. "We need to get competitive with the rest of Australia with the production and price of our beef. Otherwise we won't have a beef industry in WA," he said. Mr D'Arcy said in the past six months, the price of beef, in real terms, was the worst it had been since the 1970s. Because Western Australia was a fairly small processor, getting access to the higher priced international markets like Japan had been difficult. Mr D'Arcy said uncertainty within Harvey Industries Group, which owns the abattoir, had exacerbated the industry's problems. Last week, the company announced another restructure, standing down Michael Rapattoni from his chief executive role. Its majority shareholders, private equity investors Stark Investments and Harmony Capital Partners, have transferred two executives from Queensland's Kilcoy abattoir, which is also owned by Harmony, to run the Harvey business. Following this, it laid off 18 workers on Friday. Mr Rapattoni told WA Business News he would stay with Harvey Beef working as a consultant. "There's a couple of things in there, but it's a new role and I really can't come out and say what it is at this point," he said. "It's all part and parcel of a review at the company to work out a strategy of which way to go." The company has been the subject of union action from the 380 employees on enterprise bargaining agreement, out of 500 staff. Australian Meat Industry Workers Union WA secretary Graeme Haynes was due to meet with the board this week to continue discussions about wages and conditions. "We have received a document for consideration but as it didn't contain any wages schedules it was not possible for us to respond," Mr Haynes said. "Some aspects we would probably have no difficulty with but there are others that need clarification," he said. Mr Haynes said reports that the current EBA was too expensive and was contributing to the company's problems, were untrue. "Eighty five per cent of its problems are other issues," Mr Haynes said.
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