An overwhelming proportion of Australian beef producers hold confidence in their industry improving or staying the same over the next five years, but have demanded more from government and their levy-funded organisations to address the challenges hampering progress.
The sentiment of producers is contained in a document prepared by Cattle Council of Australia (CCA) with the support of Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), based on independent research with 675 beef producers during April and May.
The research, conducted via computer-assisted telephone interviews, will form part of the data CCA will draw from when developing its keenly anticipated national strategic plan for the grassfed cattle industry due early next year.
CCA has been taking the findings of the survey directly to producers' workshops that have been held across the country to gain further feedback on their restructure plans, considered vital if the organisation is to survive.
Only 12pc of producers surveyed expected the industry to deteriorate in the next five years, while 38pc expected improvement and 41pc said no change.
The primary reason given for the industry improving was "rising commodity prices" (36pc), while the primary reason given for the industry worsening over the next five years was "overseas markets and economies" (33pc).
When asked about the current issues facing the industry, the main issues the respondents reported as facing the beef industry today were rising input costs (16pc), weak or low commodity prices (9pc) and market access (8pc).
The respondents were also asked to rate the importance of strategic areas and priorities facing the industry as a whole.
While all areas were identified as being important, export market access, biosecurity and developing and retaining motivated and skilled people, were rated as the most important areas currently facing the industry.
Most respondents said they were unsatisfied with how the federal government was addressing the industry's challenges and were moderately satisfied with MLA and CCA.
When asked what the most important issue would be in five years' time, the most frequently reported responses were rising costs of inputs (12pc), exports related to overseas markets and economies (9pc) and viability and profitability of prod- uction (8pc).
When asked who would be best placed to act as the single coordinated voice of the beef industry, most respondents reported that it should primarily be MLA (53pc) or CCA (18pc).
Since the end of the live export crisis last year, MLA under new managing director Scott Hansen has repeatedly said it no longer wants to play the role of the industry's political voice.
He said MLA should be left to focus on its core business of developing research and development and marketing programs.
Mr Hansen has said he expected organisations such as CCA to fill the role, despite being starved of adequate funding and resources to boost their presence in the national agri-political sphere.
In a phone press conference held from CCA headquarters in Canberra yesterday, the organisation's chief executive David Inall stopped short of predicting CCA's demise, but said failing to restructure the producer-funded organisation would reduce its capacity to operate effectively.
Mr Inall said this was clearly highlighted last year at the height of the live cattle export ban, which was still causing significant flow-on impacts across the whole industry.
He said producers had expressed clearly they wanted a strong, unified industry advocate that was also active in developing policy and identifying priorities for research, particularly for so-called 'blue sky' projects at the cutting-edge of technology and innovation.
Mr Inall said there was currently enough money in the system provided by the $5 transaction levy.
However, he said the industry would need to consider allocating the funds differently to bolster CCA's capacity.
"Producers want value for money out of their levies," Mr Inall said.
"Currently the transaction levy goes four different ways to MLA Marketing, MLA R and D, Animal Health Australia and the National Residue Survey.
"Producers are clearly saying to us they want this strong, unified industry voice on public policy matters to be built from funds drawn out of the transaction levy, and that's something we will need to grapple with.
"There's also a very strong view that cattle producer representation needs to be inclusive and that brings into the debate how we blend a wider representation and the current state farm organisation model together."
Back to News Headlines