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TAS Country : May 10th 2012
Friday, May 11, 2012 Tasmanian Country 23 The Stock Report TAKING STOCK: Ben Verrall, livestock manager for the Australian Lamb Company, and local buyer Malcolm Clark inspect lambs near Cressy. Picture: KAROLIN MacGREGOR Pricey lamb off menu KAROLIN MacGREGOR Strong currency takes toll THE strength of the Australian dollar is taking Aussie lamb off the table in our key export markets. The warning has come from Ben Verrall, the livestock manager for the Australian Lamb Company, who was recently in Tasmania. The company has been a major player in the Tasmanian lamb industry for almost two decades. Each week it buys thousands of lambs from the state's producers, providing valuable competition in the local lamb market. Over the past 18 months an expan- sion in the company's processing ca- pacity has seen its lamb demand rise. On average the ALC is now buying about three semi-trailer loads of export- weigh lambs from the state each week. In the past 12 months, the company has bought about 60,000 sheep from Tasmania. But Mr Verrall said despite the company's production expansion, current global market conditions were challenging. ''The dollar is a real problem for us at the moment because it makes our product so much more expensive and consumers will just stop buying it,'' he said. ''In the US, lamb has been taken off the menus in a lot of places and off supermarket shelves because the prices have just got out of control. ''So that's undone a lot of the work we'd been doing over there in the last five years to grow that market.'' The US is the biggest importer of Australian lamb, but annual consump- tion per head of Australian lamb is still very low at about 0.120 grams. This compares with average lamb consumption in Australia of 10.5kg per person or in Switzerland, which has a population of about 7,700,000, of about 280 grams per person. Mr Verrall said given the low con- sumption rates in the US, even a small increase would make a huge difference to the Australian lamb industry. About 75 per cent of ALC's products are exported and sold into about 40 different countries. The rest is sold into the Australian domestic market. The lamb is sold both chilled and frozen, depending on the market re- quirements, and is freighted by either sea or air. Mr Verrall said record-high sheep prices over the past year were making lamb less competitive compared with other meats and that is something he would like to see change. ''Lamb used be a staple part of people's diets and something they ate once or twice a week,'' he said. ''Now because of the prices it's more of a gourmet product or something people save for special occasions, but we'd like to see people eating lamb more often. It needs to be affordable for everyone.'' ALC now processes about 20,000 lambs a week at its Victorian plants. Local ALC buyer Malcolm Clark said it sourced lambs from producers across the state. Some are bought directly from far- mers and others are sourced through agents and livestock companies. Mr Clark said it was nice to work with loyal suppliers and they also appreciated the ongoing support of local livestock agents. While lambs are still the company's core business, in recent months ALC has also begun processing small amounts of mutton after specific re- quests from some customers. ''Some of our customers were asking for mutton to make some of their products so we've started putting some through,'' Mr Verrall said. ''It just adds another string to our bow as a business as well because we can get into some slightly different markets.'' The company is also looking to source some mutton from Tasmania. ''It means we can offer the whole package to producers now with lambs and sheep,'' Mr Clark said. All Tasmanian lambs bought by the company are transported to its plant in Colac, Victoria, for processing. Mr Verrall said with the cost of transport increasing all the time, freight was becoming a significant issue. ''The freight equalisation scheme is something that needs to be looked at,'' he said. ''It's not a bad scheme, but freight prices are going up all the time and the freight equalisation isn't keeping up with it, so that's something we really need to see improved.'' Clean wool in demand WOOL REPORT Eric Hutchinson SALES resumed this week with a small offering in Melbourne, Sydney and Fremantle. Included in this was a small offering of Tasmanian wool that sold in Mel- bourne yesterday. Prices were solid and competition was keen and varied with the main buyers being Lempriere, New England Wool, Techwool, Modiano and Fox and Lillie. At this time of the year typically the vegetable matter (VM) content of wool coming in from northern Victoria and NSW is higher than the larger spring- time offerings, but has been com- pounded this year by the wonderful grass season we have had recently. As a result, we are seeing pressure on lines of fleece wool under 1 per cent VM content as buyers struggle to meet customer specifications. One of the features of the Tasmanian wool clip is the low VM content, so with the reduced supplies in NSW we are seeing the offerings from Tasmania and southern Victoria well supported. THE International Wool Textile Organisation conference is being held this week in New York. Alistair Calvert is at the conference representing the Tasmanian wool industry --- an invest- ment we believe is important to have a good understanding of what is happen- ing at various stages along the pro- duction and retail pipeline. Perhaps more importantly --- and this certainly has been confirmed by a number of reports we have seen during the conference from Alistair --- are the business opportunities that arise from meeting people at the conference. We already have confirmed the visit from a European retail business that has committed to visit Tasmania in the next six months to learn more about what we have to offer. What we have in this state and the high quality products and commodities we can grow in Tasmania are very appealing to customers in other parts of the world. Slinkskins Pty Ltd 2001017-120511 ATTENTION FARMERS We have started collection CONTACT LEO ROWLANDS to arrange pickup Phone 6362 2619 Mobile 0428 198 965
May 3rd 2012
May 24th 2012