Jim MaddenMP, Grace Grace MP, Churchill Abattoir director, Barry Moule, Jen Howard MP and Ipswich Mayor Andrew Antoniolli at the Churchill Abattoir.
Jim MaddenMP, Grace Grace MP, Churchill Abattoir director, Barry Moule, Jen Howard MP and Ipswich Mayor Andrew Antoniolli at the Churchill Abattoir. Rob Williams

Cow's tail key to abattoir re-opening in export bid

THE only way Churchill Abattoir can be saved from closing permanently is if the company can sell offal and other cuts of beef to international markets.

There is hope the owners can score a deal with a joint venture partner and lock in funding to secure the futures of 500 affected workers but they need to make it happen by June 30 or "it's all over red rover".

They need $35 million in capital budget to make the plan work which includes tapping into offshore markets to sell every last scrap of a best, right down to the tip of its tail.

There is an extra $100 on the table for every animal that is processed and sold to export over sold domestically.

Churchill Abattoir director Barry Moule said they were already hard at work in re-kindling relationships with past contacts in overseas investment, while the export general manager last week returned from negotiations in China.

He said plans were already on paper.

Churchill Abattoir director, Barry Moule.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Churchill Abattoir director, Barry Moule. Rob Williams

"We need to make as much revenue from a carcass in order to survive, it's very simple," Mr Moule said.

"There is a very small market for offal like tails. For example in Australia ox tail soup is generally had in the winter time so while we can offload some then here in Australia, when we kill in summer we need to be able to export to winter climates in the northern hemisphere.

"We cannot possibly reopen unless we are exporting, that has got to be understood. The situation is we cannot survive in the current climate unless we get maximum money out of beef carcass and that means selling offal and other cuts in an export market.

"We supplied Woolworths for 17 years in Australia. If it's good enough for Australian's why isn't it good enough for Chinese, Americans and Europeans."

He said the company did not have the capacity to come up with $35 million and needed to secure another source of funding.

"We are a family company, not a large corporation we don't have that capacity," he said.

"If we stayed open and had funding we would have been doing upgrade works on in weekends and after works which would have been twice the price in capital investment.

"We are challenging ourselves to be in a position to secure that funding and joint venture partner by whatever means by June 30. If we don't then she's all over red rover."

Mr Moule said the impact the loss of hundreds of jobs had on the Ipswich community was at the forefront of the plans.

"I'm an optimist otherwise I wouldn't be an abattoir owner. Over 600 jobs will never come back to Ipswich is someone doesn't get off their a**e and do something," he said.

"For the first 17 years we have done a pretty good job without relying on support but now we are in a situation where we do.

"If there is any importance at all on what impact 600 jobs will have on Ipswich and young boys who happen to like working with their hands. If they don't get a job in the early days then they can get off the rails and become trouble for society. If we can give them a job with their hands then they are not taking handouts and they're contributing to society. Society and the State Government need to work out whether they want working class boys to have a job in their community or go on the dole.

"It's a decision that has to be made by those people what impact this is going to have on jobs in a working class city. If we are going to lose real jobs what's left for the future generation."

USQ Australian Centre for Sustainable Business and Development director Professor Julie Cotter said the beef export market was larger than the domestic market.

"Australia's beef value chain exports approximately 70% of its production to export markets and there is limited ability to increase the price charged to Australians, with supermarkets keen to keep prices as competitive as possible," she said.

Prof Cotter said the undersupply of cattle for slaughter has caused the price that abattoirs have to pay to increase. 

"The combination of increased cost of slaughter cattle and downward pressure on prices charged to Australian consumers of beef squeezes businesses like Churchill Abattoir," she said.

"If they were able to diversity their markets to include higher value markets such as some export markets, this would reduce the pressure." 

Mayor Andrew Antoniolli said while there were 'hopes' business could be returned to the Churchill site, it was a long time for jobless workers to wait for opportunities.

"(The owner) has got some real problems and the best way forward was to shut down operations for a period of time and then look to export markets and even an export investor," he said.

"He is very hopeful to be open by the middle of next year, that's his target. Anything we can do to progress that further we are willing to do.

"We were getting some detailed inside into the problems the owner is facing at the moment and more importantly he's not walking away from this, he's facing a lot in the future.

"It's still a long time for people to wait, nine months."

Cr Antoniolli said the council had put "attractive" proposals to the State Government that may help transition some of the affected workers into new jobs.

He was unable to say what the proposals included.

"I think the response the premier and the State Government has made so far shows the premier holds a lot of favour towards Ipswich and has a lot of respect and love for the city, it shows she cares for Ipswich and wants to help the people of Ipswich," he said.