Tim droving some cattle with his trusty mates by his side.
Tim droving some cattle with his trusty mates by his side. Trina Patterson Photography

Strong case builds for new abattoir to process 100,000 head

A NEW study, released yesterday, has built a compelling case for the feasibility of a Central Highlands abattoir with a capital cost just over $100 million and annual income of more than $204 million.

The 2018 Central Highlands Abattoir Feasibility Statement was released at the Meet the Food Innovators forum and is being touted as an important milestone for the region's cattle producers.

Beef production contributes 70 percent of the Central Highlands' agricultural output with an estimated 1.4 million head of cattle inside the local government area, representing 5.5 percent of the national herd.

With a total throughput of 100,000 cattle per annum, focused on high-volume processing of cattle in the 400kg to 500kg weight range, the abattoir would be expected to cost $23.5 million per annum to operate.

ACIL Allen Consulting was commissioned by the Central Highlands Development Corporation (CHDC) to conduct the research.

CHDC chairman and Central Highlands mayor Kerry Hayes said the conclusive study was critical to demonstrate a viable business case for the project.

"The processing industry requires unique dynamics to be successful, and we believe that the evidence-based approach taken will attract a successful operator to the Central Highlands," Cr Hayes said.

"I believe this study is the first genuine evaluation of Central Queensland's meat processing capacity that measures livestock categories most prevalent in our production systems.

"The study combines premium quality grassfed carcass weights with grain finished trade weights, which are the predominant turnoff in our region."

The report recommended a custom kill service should be offered to local cattle producers with the option to kill and market their own beef products, recognising a current reduced revenue stream from this activity.

Cr Hayes endorsed the report's finding that the Central Highlands was well placed to service the growing and potential demand from the export market for beef products.

"Queensland is clearly the nation's largest beef processing state, but many of its largest plants are in semi-urban environments and face uncertain futures as population surrounds them," he said.

"Potential meat processing operators can access a green field site in close proximity to low cost utilities, and the CQ Inland Port at Yamala, in the centre of the most prolific beef producing region in the nation.

A 2018 State Government report assessed the Central Highlands as one of three regions most likely to support a viable processing facility.

"This statement builds on this work, to identify the Central Highlands as an even more compelling investment proposition for developers," Cr Hayes said.