A POSSIBLE $60,000-$80,000-a-year carrot in the form of a community development scheme has been offered to King Island producers following the closure of the JBS Australia abattoir on the island.
The development scheme has been offered by JBS as it plans to retain 50 per cent of the island's annual beef turn-off in order to continue production of its company-owned King Island beef brand.
The scheme will be administered by a local committee and a member of the JBS Australia staff and will gain its funding from a $3-a-head donation made for every beast sold to the company for processing at its Longford and Devonport plants in Tasmania.
The funds will be distributed on a monthly basis to support ongoing activities on the island in the absence of its closed abattoir.
JBS Australia southern zone manager Sam McConnell (pictured) told Stock & Land its failed Bass Strait business had injected $100 million into the KI economy during its four years of ownership but it still couldn't be made viable.
"It was a tough decision to close the plant," Mr McConnell said.
"It was especially tough for the families and the island's community involved in its operation and supplying the plant, but the three previous ownerships had not been profitable either."
Left with an image but no plant to process one of the most sought-after beef brands in Australia, JBS has met with the local community and laid out its plans for protecting the brand's integrity and further building its image.
The plan involves establishing a farm assurance program for committed producers, that among other things, ensures segregation of the livestock during transportation.
This is much the same as the farm assurance program that JBS operates at its Cobram lamb plant, which is the only Tesco-approved lamb processing plant in Australia.
Protecting the image and integrity of the 20-year-old brand and ensuring premiums can continue for the Meat Standards Australia product previously produced at the island's plant remained paramount, Mr McConnell said.
"We hope KI producers can look at the big picture with these arrangements, there has been a lot of thought has gone into this program," he said.
"JBS is committed to King Island Beef and its excellent reputation as one of Australia's leading beef brands."