Pressure placed on northern Victorian meat producers

By Jamie Salter

With the coronavirus pandemic closing down Melbourne abattoirs, northern Victorian meat producers are being forced to send their produce as far as South Australia.

VFF Pig Group president Tim Kingma said local producers were having to send their meat elsewhere after a major Victorian pig abattoir shut down.

“They kill more pigs out of that one abattoir than the rest put together, so some produce is going to other parts of Victoria, NSW and South Australia,” Mr Kingma said.

“It's not just on the farm, with trucks having to cross borders — there's a lot of rules we're trying to work through.

“Abattoirs, trucking companies and farmers are all working well together to find the gaps and work through it.”

Benalla Abattoir processes pig meat and owner Colin Sinclair said operations were changing daily.

“With Melbourne abattoirs closing we will be busier, but that will only be short-term,” Mr Sinclair said.

There are 11 meat processing sites that have been linked to coronavirus outbreaks, recording 315 positive cases between them.

Australian Lamb Company said it would close its Colac operations for at least 14 days, due to an outbreak of COVID-19.

“The temporary closure enables ALC to work with health authorities, government and community leaders to reduce the risk of further transmission,” a spokesperson said.

Staff at Brooklyn's JBS abattoir stopped work last week, until the company can assure them they will be safe from the coronavirus.

A representative for HM Greenham and Sons did not respond before deadline.

Victorian Shadow Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh said the government must ensure the food supply chain stayed open.

“The virus has spread like wildfire through meat processors since the first outbreaks at Cedar Meats in early May, but instead of working with businesses to safeguard our food supply, (Victorian Premier) Daniel Andrews will shut them down,” Mr Walsh said.

“Abattoirs are a critical link in our food supply chain, but there’s a shocking lack of support from the Victorian Government to make sure they can safely keep their doors open.”