FROM Beef Australia to Lambex, 2018 is shaping up to be huge for red meat and the industry’s overarching body, the Red Meat Industry Council (RMAC) already has a game plan drawn up.
Progressing the trade liberation agenda, especially the Trans Pacific Partnership and opportunities emerging from Brexit in both the European Union and the United Kingdom will be high on the agenda.
Advocating the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy, to secure investment and policy reform for transport and infrastructure, will also be a priority. It’s an ask which could add up to $750million and 4000 jobs to the red meat industry, according to RMAC.
Here, RMAC chief executive officer Anna Campell outlines what’s ahead in a Q and A with Fairfax Media.
Q: What is the latest intel from Canberra?
A: With the two by-elections over the main attention across the board has turned to a Coalition cabinet reshuffle. We are obviously watching with a critical view to what will happen with the key cabinet areas impacting on the red meat like trade - transport, regional development and of course agriculture. This will shape our 2018 priorities.
Q: How do you think perspectives on the red meat industry in Canberra have changed during 2017, particularly as a result of the senate inquiry?
A: The reality is the Rural, Regional Affairs and Transport Committee only represents a very small part of what RMAC and our partners do when it comes to advocacy for Australian red meat businesses.
For RMAC, there seems to be very little impact on either policy outcomes or relationships when it comes to cabinet or shadow cabinet – if anything our relationships with both sides of the house have become better over the past year. Our focus has always been on high quality and evidence-based policy as opposed to politics and this will continue to be the case in 2018.
Q: What are shaping up to be the big issues for 2018?
A: We will effectively be leading into pre-Federal election mode so it will be about understanding key electoral drivers for red meat. Of course, people who vote and pay tax in Australia are also in large part our 24 million domestic customers of beef, sheep and goatmeat so we have to do everything possible to make sure we get it right as we have a big responsibility to both the community and to the government of the day that represents them.
Big issues will be driving trade agreements with the European Union and Indonesia, lobbying the Federal government to provide a circuit breaker to poor rates of business level commercialisation and adoption for red meat (this is across the board a big issue for business in this country) and keeping biosecurity risk offshore with the proposed fresh beef importation. Government must come to the table to address these key issues.
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the industry at the moment and just how possible is it to overcome/address?
A: We are already a world leader in providing safe and high quality red meat. What we want to be is the world’s premium supplier of safe and high quality red meat and that will always be challenging. This means being one step ahead in our industry integrity systems, in our science, the way we market our product at home and abroad, the policy settings we promote and the culture we encourage in the industry.
How we do this touches on every business within the chain, and what every industry company or representative body produces. The onus is on us all to always be better in every way and more collaborative to stay ahead.
Q: How do you see the cattle market and lamb market travelling in 2018?
A: At the production level we are enjoying strong prices across all three red meats and also wool. Beef and goat meat has come off the very high levels reached last year but are certainly still very strong.
2018 is shaping as another strong year for prices so it will be important for our processing sector that demand for our red meat in Australia and across the world is strong as well.
The benefits of recent trade deals are a key component of this; as is the value of our currency which has a significant impact on Australian dollar returns.