A development application for a $5 million purpose built retail ready facility for the Northern Co-operative Meat Company at Casino has been lodged with local government and company CEO Simon Stahl says the investment will shore up the processor's future as a major regional employer.
NCMC was recently rebranded as Casino Food Co-op in a bid to differentiate itself as more than a slaughterhouse. The name is in keeping with NH Foods at Wingham and Thomas Foods at Tamworth.
"Most meat companies have taken "meat" out of their names," said Mr Stahl. "It is a sensitive issue."
"In the last couple of years we have grown our retail sales, in both the domestic and international markets," he said, explaining the need for a bigger purpose-built room to house necessary equipment.
"This is an opportunity to do processing in the regions when traditionally this sort of thing was done in metropolitan areas. It is an extension of our business - a form of value-adding."
Mr Stahl said he was confident the approval process would be straight forward with work being completed late in the second half of the calendar year. Of the $5m spend, $1.55m will come from Federal Government grants.
The investment in a retail packaging chain will offer NCMC's multitude of branded customers who currently receive beef in a box, the ability to direct market their product one steak at a time into consumer's home both here and abroad. It will also add jobs, about 60 people across two shifts, something post Covid regional Australia requires.
"This investment will allow us to free up skilled workers to train new employees," said Mr Stahl.
New relationships with other markets for these products are being deepened at the same time.
Recent trade blockades with China over labelling issues exacerbated by differences in language - including pronunciation and interpretation - remain a frustration but Mr Stahl pointed out events in the political sphere were beyond the control of a single facility.
"We prefer to focus on the positives, like the quality of our protein. Our China office remains open and we believe the country will be a terrific partner in the long term.
Chinese people consume about 6kg red meat every year compared to 25-30kg for every Australia. If the Chinese would eat another 250g steak each that would take all of our supply or the whole year.
Interestingly annual Chinese consumption of seafood is 36kg per person (40kg/pp in metropolitan areas) and yet 52pc of global wild stocks are over-exploitedre, which points to intense future demand for protein from other sources.
Meanwhile Casino Food Co-op continues to supply 20 other markets around the world and Mr Stahl says south east Asia is the likely end consumer for Australian beef, particularly Indonesia and Vietnam.
Australian domestic consumption at an excellent price remains 30pc of total processing volume with continued high demand for the local product, while a shortage of cattle and record prices for liveweight animals are having a flow on effect with processors. Casino Food Co-op, already operating at four days a week, will wind back operations even further until the situation changes.
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