Northern Cooperative Meat Company in Casino has been black-listed by the Chinese Government on exports. PIC: SUSANNA FREYMARK
Northern Cooperative Meat Company in Casino has been black-listed by the Chinese Government on exports. PIC: SUSANNA FREYMARK

How China's blacklisting affects jobs at Casino meatworks

"WE HAVE a bright future," meatworks director Simon Stahl said.

These are fighting words after the Chinese government black-listed four Australian abattoirs from exports when Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for an independent investigation into the coronavirus outbreak.

Despite the black-listing and the impact of coronavirus on global markets, Northern Cooperative Meat Company's chief executive Mr Stahl said the future of the beef industry was in good shape.

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READ: Queensland worried about loss of jobs due to China's trade strategy

Of the 70 per cent of exports from the Casino meatworks, only 10 per cent is to China.

"This is an opportunity for new markets," Mr Stahl said.

"It's a normal business model to diversify markets.

"A lot of countries in South East Asia are becoming richer, countries like Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia are growth opportunities."

The current blip caused by China is a "one-off interruption," he said.

"The fundamental protein demand across the globe hasn't changed."

The black-listing will not affect jobs at the Casino site.

With 1200 staff on the payroll and 900 workers at the site daily, Mr Stahl said jobs were secure and they would be holding onto casual workers as well.

Sixty eight per cent of workers are from Casino, 23 per cent from Lismore, seven per cent from Kyogle with a further two per cent from other areas.

Mr Stahl's personal philosophy of "walking a mile in someone else's shoes" is a guiding principle in how he does business.

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"China is a complex country," he said.

"Other countries do not have the right to dictate to others how to run their country."

Criticism of China's wet markets do not take into account food shortages or the way food is prepared and eaten.

Much like the global criticism of Australia eating kangaroo, he said.

In a country town of more than 10,000, NCMC is the largest employer followed by Richmond Valley Council second with 300 staff, Broadwater Sugar Mill lists 83 personnel (does not include grower members), Casino RSM Club with 65, and Richmond Dairies has around 50 at its premises.

Manufacturing, including NCMC, dominates the region generating $167 million (value added) in 2018-2019. In that same period tourism and hospitality value added $26.7 million. In terms of employment, the largest contribution is easily the manufacturing sector, followed by health care and social assistance, then agriculture, forestry and fishing, education and training, retail and trade and accommodation and food services.

NCMC was founded in 1933 and has been a major sponsor of the town's Beef Week Festival from the start, held every May and postponed this year due to COVID-19.

With reports the Chinese Government is now targeting the iron ore industry, National Farmers' Federation president Fiona Simson was concerned about disruptions to agricultural trade between Australia and China.

"Two thirds of Australia's farm production is exported. Almost one third of this, 28 per cent, is exported to China, including 18% of our total beef production and 49% of our barley." Ms Simson said.

 

Northern Cooperative Meat Company in Casino. PIC: SUSANNA FREYMARK
Northern Cooperative Meat Company in Casino. PIC: SUSANNA FREYMARK


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