BIG beef business Teys Australia has called out fellow processors on attempts to stifle the flow of just-in-time market information on slaughter rates.
In the wake of Meat and Livestock Australia’s weekly slaughter report being up and running in full again this week after dramas unfolded with processors not wanting to provide information, Teys’ Tom Maguire has lashed out.
He described the argument that open access to the market intelligence is leading to overseas buyers exerting downward pressure on end product prices as “nonsense”.
Mr Maguire is the general manager corporate services of the 70-year-old Teys, which operates six beef processing plants and three cattle feedlots across Australia’s eastern seaboard.
He is a fierce advocate for the concept of value based marketing and says giving cattle suppliers “basic information on which to make better decisions” is a key component of that.
The slaughter report had been published minus critical Queensland quotes, which effectively rendered a national tally useless, for the past six weeks, since the country’s largest processor JBS Australia started withholding the figures from its northern plants.
The report covers approximately 95 per cent of cattle slaughter, with processors voluntarily providing their kill data.
JBS questioned the accuracy of the report and how it was affecting the ability of exporters to negotiate with overseas buyers.
It’s position was supported by peak processor body the Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC), which argued the industry could be adequately serviced with government slaughter data which is published around six weeks after the fact.
That argument has been countered by those in the industry pushing for greater transparency and access to market information for all supply chain stakeholders.
“The ultimate irony, of course, will be when processors suddenly request increased market reporting in a rising market so they can use that to lever up export prices,” one industry watcher said.
Mr Maguire said AMIC’s response ignored the fact the Australian meat industry had been rapidly changing in that it was moving away from a commodity space to a value supply chain where the need was to meet customer’s demands.
“Beef is four times the price of chicken on the domestic market. Our cattle costs and processing costs are higher than our competitors,” he said.
“If we are to prosper we have to go down this path (of value based marketing) and we can’t do that if we are not giving our suppliers basic market information - and this is basic information.”
He said the slaughter information had been flowing voluntarily for ten-plus years, which includes periods such as 2014 and 2015 when meat prices were at a record highs despite record kills.
“So the facts don’t support the claim it has been used as a means of pushing down prices,” he said.
“If we are going to compete in the future with the likes Brazil and India, we have to get closer supply chains working together to give our customers exactly what they want.
“Denying each other information flies in the face of where we have to head.”
MLA had been trying to broker a solution to the slaughter report stalemate, including discussions with the Federal Government on the possibility of using its Export Production and Condemnation Statistics (EPACS) data, which is mandatory reporting, in more timely fashion.
Those discussions are ongoing, MLA said this week.
In the meantime, however, JBS opted to resume providing the data again this week, indicating a longer term solution that meets all needs may be in the pipeline.
JBS’s John Berry said the company was willing to work with industry on a solution.
”Our simple requirement is that if we collect data it must be accurate and usable,” he said.
AMIC members have also opted to continue to supply the data, although their objections still stand.
Incidentally, the Eastern States total for the week was down 11 per cent year-on-year, with a 36pc decline in the Queensland female category the largest figure.