Market watchers are eyeing the opposing forces within the Australian beef industry with interest in the run up to the annual general meeting of Meat and Livestock Australia in Mt Gambier, South Australia on November 21.
Australian Beef Association president John Carter will be seeking radical changes to the research and promotion body and its peak councils – the Cattle Council, Sheepmeat Council, the Australian Lot Feeders Association and the Goatmeat Council – a disaffection that has at its heart the issue of control over the A$90m (US$45m) raised by the livestock transaction levy and administered by the MLA.
Carter recently slammed the industry for failing to capitalise on the Japanese and Korean markets as well as its US counterparts had. He highlighted failures in promotion and meat grading and blamed the MLA for failing to gain a price premium over US beef in the Japanese market.
“The US is miles ahead,” he said, according to The Mercury newspaper: “In Korea the US is getting twice the money we are getting and increased tonnages by three times […] We must have a hard look at ourselves […] It is a terrible reflection on our lack of a grading system and level of expertise.”
His resolutions for 21 November are many, but include a proposal to remove the peak councils’ special membership rights, and thus erode their influence on MLA affairs.
This will also be the third consecutive year that Carter will attempt to change the MLA constitution and hand over control to elected, rather than appointed, directors. Previous meeting have seen him gain 52% and 32% support from MLA voting members, in 1999 and 2000 respectively. Carter contends that until posts are elective, the MLA board will have no incentive to perform well: “We have got a situation where some can be there for life.”
Carter maintains that the MLA should be run by the large producers and processors, who have all invested large sums of money in the industry and are most anxious to keep the sector profitable. “What is good for large producers is good for small producers,” he says.