Solid international market demand has enabled sheepmeat co-operative WAMMCO to deliver a record profit, while still paying producers high prices for their lambs and mutton.
The pre-tax profit of $20 million for fiscal 2018, before a pool bonus is paid, marked a huge increase from $2.6 million a year earlier.
WAMMCO has processing plants in Katanning and Goulburn in NSW. It recorded consolidated turnover of $380 million after processing more than two million animals, equally split between the two sites.
Chief executive Coll MacRury said the result enabled a record pool bonus of $4.3 million to be rebated to producers in August, while it would also invest in further plant improvements.
The co-operative paid an average of $135 per head of lamb and $97 per head of mutton.
Mr MacRury said high volumes of stock allowed the Katanning processing facility to maintain effective operations throughout the season. He said WAMMCO had processed some sheep that became available as part of the live export pause, but it had little impact on the year’s financial results given the Katanning plant was closed in June for maintenance.
Challenges remained in sourcing staff, but he said existing staff regularly worked overtime, enabling WAMMCO to drive processing costs to below budget levels.
“We have had trouble and have brought in some visa people to supplement. It’s minimal — 5 per cent of our 360-strong workforce,” he said.
He said if sheep live exports “fell over”, WAMMCO would look more seriously at bringing in extra people from offshore as there was a lack of available labour around Katanning.
“We could potentially cope but we would need support around workforce, that is, staff on visas not having to go change employer after six months,” he said. Mr MacRury said international lamb and mutton product prices should remain relatively strong this financial year.
He said North America, the Middle East, South East Asia and China would continue to offer the best opportunities for further revenue growth, with the clean, green image of Australia and factors such as the product’s hormone-free status, continuing to attract a strong premium.
The West Australian, 1 November 2018. Jenne Brammer
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