WAMMCO’s new CEO Coll MacRury sees his initial role with the cooperative as addressing Western Australia’s declining sheep flock and keeping WAMMCO at the ‘cutting edge’ of lamb processing technology and marketing.
“I am here initially, to take stock, to keep things tight and to work with the WAMMCO team to ensure completion of the $5 million boning upgrade at Katanning in time for this year’s spring lamb flush.”
“However I believe the WAMMCO model is a highly successful one, with significant scope for future expansion,” he said this week. Mr MacRury took over from Des Griffiths as WAMMCO CEO on April 14. He was previously in charge of major lamb and beef processors and exporters in New Zealand. He said the WA cooperative had an impressive record of upgrades and capital investment over the past 10 years to keep its service costs at Katanning competitive.
“The latest boning room upgrade is designed to improve value adding of our lamb product through better use of labour. Our challenge will be to ensure that these new systems actually add value – not cost.”
Mr MacRury said both Australia and New Zealand were experiencing serious declines in their sheep flocks, but New Zealand was already suffering from a major lamb processing overcapacity and also faced increased competition from a revival of live sheep exports.
“In WA, WAMMCO has fallen under one million lambs per year and will need to rebuild the flock quickly if we are to take advantage of the improving global appetite for lamb – and the wool and live sheep export industries are also to be adequately provided for.
“Lamb is rapidly moving to the top end of the world’s most preferred food list and I believe there will be a major opportunity for many more young farmers in WA to capitalise on this improving demand for quality.
“Genetic and management advances made by the lamb production industry in WA over the past decade have been outstanding and are being confirmed by the ViaScan-based WAMMCO Select program.
“Major progress with new breeds of minimum care sheep that also offer the genetics to produce heavy, more valuable lambs, will be a vital foundation to the flock rebuilding process,” he said.
Mr MacRury said the rise of major supermarts and their preference for direct-supply partnerships had dominated the global meat retailing scene. “New Zealand producers retain the lion’s share of the EU lamb import quota and are already complying with the requirement of some of these European chains for on-farm production audits and other systems to enable them to select and identify product for their consumers.
“There may be future opportunities in Europe for the heavier lambs WA has developed for the US market.”
He said the WAMMCO brand enjoyed global recognition and the cooperative was already benefitting from supermart alliances in the US through the Australian Lamb Company. "I believe there will be scope for more significant alliances for WAMMCO members both overseas and at home,” he said.