Fletcher International Exports Pty Ltd, Dubbo, New South Wales
Roger is a self-made success story. From droving sheep in 1967 to becoming a legend in his own lifetime.
Today he is the owner and operator of one
of the most successful abattoirs in New South Wales, Fletcher International Exports Pty Ltd at Dubbo and Fletcher International WA near Albany in Western Australia. This now making Fletcher International Exports the largest sheep meat processors in
Roger’s droving days came to an end in 1972 when he started using the council and government owned abattoirs throughout NSW and QLD – especially Moree and then branching out to lease the boning rooms at Mudgee and Gunnedah abattoirs. This was when our paths first crossed as we were both killing mutton sheep in the same abattoirs.
While my sheep were going to the Halal trade in
Roger was breaking his heavy sheep into primal cuts in the same manner as beef as opposed to the traditional way of legs, back-straps and trunk for export to
Japan which was the first lesson he taught me.
In 1986 when I bought an old meat plant and spent millions trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,Roger decided to build a green field plant from scratch in Dubbo the home of the largest livestock market in
Australia which was the second lesson he taught me.
However the NZ consultants who designed the worlds largest abattoir kill floor for mutton sheep, came to me for advise and help in designing the kill line, as my skills as a slaughterman were as well respected as Roger's skills as a shearer.
In 1988, the
site of the Dubbo abattoir was commissioned, and has since been expanded to become one of the world’s leading sheep meat processing plants. A banker from the ANZ bank was asked at the opening ceremony, if he considered a sheep plant of this size was a risky venture for the bank. He replied “we are backing the man not the venture”, which says it all about Roger Fletcher.
In 1990, the fellmongery commenced operations and 1995 saw the start of the wool scouring and topmaking plant.
The company processes its own wool and significant quantities of shorn wool into tops, which are sold across the world to be made into yarn.
In 1998, the company expanded into
with yet another
site being developed at Narrikup (near
). Like the Dubbo plant, Narrikup is fully integrated, processing all parts of the animal, with wool being sent to Dubbo for processing. The Western Australian plant also includes pelt-pickling facilities and a fellmongery.
Melissa Fletcher-Toovey was always destined to have a large role in her family’s meat exporting business, Fletcher International Exports Pty Ltd. Showing determination and passion to learn from an early age, it seemed inevitable.
As a young girl Melissa wanted to be the boss or be an actor. Melissa could not act, but she had passion, determination and a capacity to succeed in business, and that was her fate. As Manager, Melissa has brought out the best in her 470 employees and propelled the Narrikup operation in Western Australia to a level beyond which even her nationally known entrepreneur father, Roger could have hoped for.
In mid 1990, the Western Australian Government approached Fletchers International toopen an operation in
. The decision was a risky one - the Government had offered some subsidies, but the risk and financial commitment was huge, theenterprise could not afford to fail. In 1998 the multi-million dollar Narrikup factory, justnorth of
was built and business began.
At age 22, Melissa left her family in Dubbo and moved to
to run the administration.
She wanted to be the boss! As fate would have it, Melissa got her wish
when the outside manager her father had hired to run the company quit within the first few weeks of operation. Melissa stepped up to become the leader – she did not tell her father - Melissa wanted to prove her talent
When her father arrived six weeks later, he was shocked to see Melissa at the helm and the extent of the increase in production due to Melissa’s management capacity and crew of eager dedicated staff.
‘Dad tells me that when he came to WA and realised it was me establishing the
business, he was impressed. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. Dad is a believer in change and the capacity of youth, but I still stunned him! He realised hisdetermination and business skills had rubbed off on me – he said he would never doubt me again!
The company’s main production is sheep meat, wooltops and various by-products, which are exported to more than 95 countries. Fletcher International – both plants – has the capacity to process which is slaughtering and boning up to 90,000 sheep per week, and employs over 1300 employees in total.
Roger Fletcher is currently a member of the following committees:
• Chairman of the Australian Processors Council (National and
Export Lamb, Sheep and Goat Industries Council)
• Board member of the Australian Meat Industry Council
• Vice Chairman of the Australian Wool Innovation
Locally, Roger is also a patron of Westhaven Industries, the driving force behind the Get Real Program, and a board member of the
– Central Western NSW.
Roger is married to Gail, has three children, Pamela, Melissa and Farron, and lots of grandchildren. Melissa runs the plant in WA with 450 staff under her wing.
Utter the word "can't" within earshot of Roger Fletcher and he will almost certainly bark back: "Who says we can't?"
"'Can't' is one word we don't use in this place," he says. "This place" is his family's modern sheep abattoir and wool and hide processing complex on Dubbo's northern outskirts in Central West NSW.
Roger Fletcher, pictured outside his Condobolin property, Kiargathur Station, has outed the AWI board as "professional board sitters", embroiled in a culture of secrets, ingrained factionalism, and overspending.
Twenty years ago "this place" was a paddock. Now it's the site of a remarkable processing facility where virtually nothing from the sheep is wasted ? even the skerricks of meat from the bones are removed and turned into a paste for high-value petfood markets in the
Roger Fletcher's journey from sheep drover and dealer to one of regional
's most successful businessmen is now part of rural folklore.
His family company, Fletcher International Exports, processes up to 17,000 sheep and lambs a day at two modern plants at Dubbo, NSW, and
. The Dubbo plant also has wool scouring, topmaking and fellmongering facilities.
Lamb and mutton carcases are sliced into an almost mind-boggling number of cuts and shipped to about 90 countries.
Likewise, valuable export markets have been developed for many offal by-products including tripe, tongues, livers and kidneys. And what is left is turned into petfood and products such as tallow, bloodmeal and bonemeal.
Mr Fletcher is affable yet blunt. He is a "can-do" person and quickly gets frustrated with anybody not from the same mould. There isn't much love between him and most of the politicians and bureaucrats who regularly cross his path.
Roger Fletcher - the rural agribusiness 'yes, I can' man.
When he couldn't convince NSW rail and government authorities to build a spur line to his Dubbo abattoir he funded the 1.2km link himself and is now running three freight trains a week to port in
. As well as lamb and mutton, containers of grain are also loaded for export.
He kept lobbying (with others) until Dubbo was hooked into the Moomba-Sydney gas supply via a spur pipeline from Marsden near
in 1998. That pipeline was extended to
"How did the gas get to
? Because we got it to Dubbo," Mr Fletcher says.
He and his team relentlessly pursue greater efficiencies and improvements in their operations and are always looking for new opportunities to grow.
"If we sit still for three years, we are going to go broke. We have to keep going forward and doing better than (the rate of) inflation," Mr Fletcher says.
"I can proudly say we can process a sheep and its by-products cheaper than we could do it 20 years ago."
Mr Fletcher's impatience and frustration with politicians and bureaucrats extends well beyond his dealings with them on behalf of his own business.
He is frustrated about how rural and regional
has been largely stripped of its political clout and voice by the relentless growth of
's major cities.
More and more people are being packed into the big cities which is costing more and more in providing infrastructure and services yet politicians can't see the need for change, he says.
Mr Fletcher is a fierce supporter of a major piece of infrastructure he believes would encourage businesses and people to shift out of
? a super highway across the
to western NSW.
The latest reason given for not funding the project was not a lack of money but a survey indicating there is now insufficient traffic to justify the project, Mr Fletcher says, shaking his head.
He says the traffic flows would increase once the super highway is built because Central West NSW would become a much more attractive and convenient place to do business and live.
Tim Barrett, Geronimo Grain Systems commercial business manager, Cowra with Farron Fletcher, General Manager, Fletcher International Exports and Jeff Schmidt, Chief Agri/Industrial Division, Chief Industries, Kearney, USA, at the new Fletcher grain and rail hub at Dubbo.
He has some radical ideas for overcoming the political power and spending imbalance that now exists between big cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and the rest of the country, starting with the scrapping of the States. That would save up to $50 billion a year, he says, and provide the money for more nation-changing infrastructure.
He also advocates a major overhaul of Australian House of Representatives electorates (now based on population densities) along the lines of the Senate where the six States each has 12 Senators.
He proposes carving up
into 30 or so "blocks" (not based on population) with two representatives from each voted to represent their area in
. Such a system would ensure that political power was evenly spread across the nation.
The present electoral system will just keep increasing the number of politicians from the big cities who have absolutely no interest in decentralisation projects to encourage people into
's increasingly vacant inland.
is now controlled politically by Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane. Well, they aren't going to run my business. Fancy people in
telling us how to run our farms. It's a joke," he says.
Merriman Shearing School, NSW
Merriman Station, a working sheep station in
New South Wales
, has become the venue for an innovative shearing school that prepares young Indigenous people to take advantage of the growing demand for skilled labour in the wool industry.
Trainees aim to shear around 9000 sheep during an intensive training program.
's largest sheep meat and wool producer, Fletcher International Exports, provides the sheep and pays for them to be shorn with the income helping to cover the cost of the program.
The project involves a two-week pre-vocational course followed by a 13-week practical training program covering workplace safety, shearing skills, maintenance of equipment, fencing, wool handling and life skills.
Training and mentoring is delivered by an Indigenous shearing contractor and his team, supported by Access Group Training which employs the trainees and pays their wages during the training period.
Accommodation and meals are prepared, transport is provided to return the trainees to their home towns on weekends and graduates find either casual or permanent employment as shearers, wool handlers, rouseabouts or station hands at the end of their time at the station.
Following the first intake in 2009-10, eight trainees graduated and all but one found permanent or casual employment.
In 2010-11, there were two intakes with 27 Indigenous people commencing training. Some have achieved a shearing rate of 30 sheep per run or 120 per day which is above industry requirements. It is expected that 22 will graduate with a Certificate II in Agriculture.
The aim is for the shearing school is to become a permanent feature of the shearing industry in western NSW and QLD.
The ILC purchased Merriman in November 2006 and construction of the residential facility was completed in 2008. In 2010-11, $175,000 was provided for equipment, property operating costs and running expenses (this includes income received from Fletcher International Exports). A further $40,000 was provided by the ILC to purchase a bus to transport trainees.
Access Group Training was funded by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations in 2010-11 to cover the cost of training including the services of the Indigenous shearing contractor.
Fletcher International Exports provided 9,000 sheep and covered the cost of agistment and shearing and the cost of a resident stock manager. Strong personal support for the program by the company's Managing Director, Mr Roger Fletcher, is playing a major role in helping to secure employment for graduates in the wool and associated industries.
Roger Fletcher has been appointed to the board of Infrastructure NSW.
Mr Fletcher, managing director of Fletcher International Exports, will join the new State Government body which will be in charge of major infrastructure projects across NSW.
Along with his role as chairman of the National Export Lamb, Sheep and Goat Industries Council, Deputy Premier, Andrew Stoner, said Mr Fletcher was a well-known figure throughout regional NSW and a "strong advocate" for the area.
"Whether in Dubbo or towns across regional NSW, Roger Fletcher is recognised as a champion of the bush," Mr Stoner said.
"Roger Fletcher is renowned throughout industry for his readiness to investigate new ideas and methods, and I have no doubt he will apply that industriousness to his work on the board of Infrastructure NSW."
Premier, Barry O’Farrell, said on Twitter that Mr Fletcher’s appointment ensured “regional NSW has it's say”.
He has built a private railway track and depot to be used to transport meat, wool and wheat, direct to export in
The track stretches 1.2 kilometres across a red, flat expanse on the outskirts of Dubbo in western
New South Wales
Mr Fletcher says after lobbying the government for over a decade for a railway depot in Dubbo, he decided to build it himself.
"It was first brought up by council in 1992. At that stage the government was going to build it" he says.
A lot of people came out here and looked at it. If they would have put down a sleeper down for every time they slept in Dubbo we would have had it built many years ago"
He says the facility is crucial to his national and international operations.
"It gives us a better guarantee of getting our products to the wharf. We can't operate unless we've got all links in the chain operating," he says.
National affairs editor of the Railway Digest Magazine John Hoyle says in the rail world, Fletcher's development is very exciting.
Mr Hoyle says in recent times private rail facilities like Fletcher's have started to appear all over the country and that he sees it as a sign of things to come.
"It's these sorts of developments that are very very welcome, because it shows that the rail is getting back some of the business that has traditionally goes by road transport," he says.
"There's increasing disquiet about the size and number of large trucks on roads.
now has some of the largest trucks in the world on its roads."
Mr Hoyle says independent railways and rail services are starting to gain momentum, but that the Fletcher's development is unique in that it will transport goods other than wheat.
"I think this is where rail can expand out into other commodities so it can expand its business base."
Roger has done so much to improve the lives of Aboriginal people and currently employs 300 members of the Aboriginal community.
Successful entrepreneurs recognise the importance of being a continuous learner and idea
obsessive. Melissa Fletcher-Toovey believes ‘as soon as you stand still, you might as well
die’. She is constantly challenging her own knowledge and has never forgotten her(Successful entrepreneurs recognise the importance of being a continuous learner and idea
obsessive. Melissa Fletcher-Toovey believes ‘as soon as you stand still, you might as well
die’. She is constantly challenging her own knowledge and has never forgotten her
father’s advice - ‘Always look to improve and don’t accept that if a thing is going well, it’s
right. You’ve always got to get that one step better’.
Having a “thirst for knowledge” is a vital ingredient in business success for Kevin Wone.
Terri Janke strongly advocates – ‘Don’t set up in business thinking that you have to know
everything – you don’t. Seek advice from other people in the business and learn from
them. Continually educate yourself on ways to improve your knowledge and capacity’.
The wealth of experiences and perspectives contained in the following set of stories are
invaluable. They simply capture the spirit of entrepreneurial success. More importantly,
they reinforce, using Jamie Thomson’s words, ‘it is a bloody hard option to follow but, be
proud, hold your heads up high. Remember Aboriginal people have a unique advantage in
business when promoted with pride and integrity.’
His favourite tale about his droving days as a young man was hitting a town in western NSW one night in a particularly bad drought. There was no water or feed in the town so that night he drove his mob of sheep on to the town golf course fed and watered them, leaving before sun up the following day.
He has single handedly taken mutton to a whole new level in value adding the product into unique primal cuts. By grading his wethers correctly he can take legs on the bone and chops from these sheep as good as any lamb.
Roger has been critical of the professional board members in the meat and wool industry. When other overpaid and under qualified meat executives are talking abut their hobbies of Jaguar cars and motor bikes, Roger will grab a sheep and show you how to shear it or how you can cut the carcass to the best advantage.
Roger Fletcher a legend in his own lifetime.
William Hayes´Buenos Aires Argentina - 19 February 2012.
In March the fourth member to be enrolled is
Larry Goodman of the ABP Food Group.
Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.
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