Saleyards have a future: Reid
The Grafton Regional Livestock Selling Centre turns over around $30million each year and is an integral part of the Clarence Valley community, centre manager Ian Reid said yesterday.
Mr Reid was responding to comments made by agribusiness expert Andrew Smith, a partner with PPB Chartered Accountants, who this week claimed the days of the local saleyard might be coming to an end.
Mr Smith said as consumers, particularly retail outlets, demanded greater certainty over the quality of their meat, then the focus on saleyards would dwindle.
Mr Smith said the number of cattle going through saleyards had dropped from 65 per cent to 45 per cent during the past 15 years.
It was likely the total number would approach the five per cent of all pigs, which are largely bought direct by exporters or retailers from farmers. Three-quarters of all fruit and vegetables are bought direct by retailers from farmers.
"Regrettably, I see beef cattle going the same way," Mr Smith said.
"This will be a blow to many smaller country towns where the saleyards are a significant part of country life."
Mr Smith's warnings were taken with a grain of salt by Mr Reid, who runs the 11th largest saleyard in Australia in terms of the number of cattle bought and sold.
Mr Reid said prime cattle sales at South Grafton attracted vendors from as far as Glen Innes and Kempsey.
He said last year 56,000 cattle were sold through the South Grafton yards, only marginally down from 2003.
"There is no need to panic, the industry is still very viable," Mr Reid said.
He said the outlook for the centre was positive, with $70,000 worth of electronic scanning equipment to be installed as part of the National Livestock Identification Scheme.
Mr Reid said in three years the number of cattle in the Clarence Valley had fallen because of drought and the closure of the 8,000-acre cattle property, Bardool Station, at Kangaroo Creek. He said the advantage of a saleyard was that livestock was sold in open competition and farmers got the best prices.
"We are confident that it will con- tinue in the years to come."