NORTHERN Territory Cattlemen's Association (NTCA) executive director Luke Bowen says there has always been strong support for building a northern beef processing facility, to give cattle producers a viable market alternative and competition.
Mr Bowen said the live export market would remain a strong focus, even if AACo opened a new facility in the near future, given the Indonesian market's proximity to the northern beef industry and the comparative advantages that it brings.
But some concern has been raised about the abattoir's potential scale of operations, with fears labour may be difficult to source and the operation may become unviable if it's too large and supply isn't matched with market demand.
Mr Bowen said he's already been in contact with animal rights groups like the RSPCA, who have stated that immediately when a northern abattoir opens its doors, they will increase demands for the live export trade to be closed on that day.
But he said that stance ignores the dynamics of the northern herd and the inability to feed cattle to bring them into the required slaughter-weight category.
Cattle must be a maximum 350kg for the Indonesian live export market, and those processed in the northern abattoir would be 400kg and above.
Mr Bowen said the AACo facility would take older cattle out of specification for the Indonesian live export market, such as breeder cows and bulls.
He said there were few viable market alternatives for those cattle, whi
ch had a long way to travel to other processing facilities and markets in southern Australia or to the east.
Mr Bowen said north of a line from Harvey in WA, south of Perth, to Townsville, there was no abattoir facility of any real consequence with serious processing capacity.
He said the older cattle may die in the paddock, which is not desirable, or they could be processed humanely in a professional facility like the one proposed by AACo.
Mr Bowen said having a northern processing facility "makes sense" and he's confident the AACo project can get off the ground, with government support.
He said he's already held conversations with various key federal ministers including Reg- ional Australia Minister Simon Crean and Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig to support the proposal.
"We need to have a mix of the two - live exports and a northern processing facility," he said.
"In the north we can breed cattle efficiently, but we simply can't feedlot them to bring them up to the high weights needed in the two-year-old slot like they can down south.
"There's a real synergy between northern Australia and Indonesia.
"They can provide our cattle with feed from agricultural by-products, like palm oil kernel or tapioca, which are high-energy and protein sources which would normally go to waste.
"We applaud AACo for having a go at building this abattoir in northern Australia and we support their moves.
"We'd also encourage the government to come to the table with public infrastructure like roads and utilities to help bring the project together, including public infrastructure at ports, to get the product into markets.
"We maintain that an abattoir complements the live trade as it will cater for older cattle and those too heavy for the live export market."