Batchelor meatworks set to re-open giving NT cattle producers a major abattoir once again – ABC Rural
The Northern Territory’s cattle industry will once again have access to a major abattoir, with the old meatworks at Batchelor undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation.
Central Agri Group, which owns abattoirs in Victoria and Western Australia, has spent the last six months working on the facility south of Darwin, and said it plans to start processing cattle and buffalo in April next year.
The Batchelor abattoir was mothballed in 2003 and its resurrection comes just months after the Australian Agricultural Company (AACo) mothballed its $100 million abattoir nearby at Livingstone.
Central Agri Group’s Peter Polovinka said the company had learnt a lot from past failures and was confident the Batchelor abattoir would be a success.
“Having been in the industry for more than 40 years, I’ve found a lot of experienced operators and brought them all together into our group and they are the people that will be running this plant.”
About ‘processing more meat’
Mr Polovinka said because of the company’s network of facilities, the Batchelor plant will open with markets already established.
“It will be all boxed chilled and frozen product, depending on the orders; if they want quarters, we can do that,” he said.
“We want to target at least 35 countries in Asia and then we will go from there.
“It’s just about processing more meat and then we will send it straight out from Darwin, whether it goes on ship or out of the airport.”
While AACo invested more than $100 million in building a new facility, the bill for Central Agri Group will be much less.
“We bought an existing plant which hasn’t run for approximately 15 years so we are totally renovating it at the moment,” Mr Polovinka said.
Abattoir to complement live export
With a strong live export market in the Northern Territory, one of the biggest issues for past meatworks had been sourcing livestock.
However, Mr Polovinka said this processing plant would not compete with live export but rather, would complement it.
“Our focus is on cull cattle [old cows and bulls] and whatever is left over from export,” he said.
“But they are the cattle we will be able to process and it is better for the animal’s welfare because they don’t have to stand on a truck for days and days.
“We are just down the road from the Darwin port and centrally located nearby export quarantine yards.”
However, the challenge of securing stock is exacerbated over the wet season, from November to April, when the majority of cattle stations in the Territory become inaccessible.
“We have a feedlot here which holds 3,500 head so we’ll try and bring in as many cattle and buffalo as we can to hold over the wet season because I would like to process all year round,” Mr Polovinka said.
“If all goes well, we might go up to two shifts a day, so our plan currently is to operate five days a week.
“If we do double shifts, that’s 2,000 a week, but we will have to build up to that.”
Boost for beef industry and Batchelor
Already the plant has provided a boost to the small local community, employing contractors from Darwin’s rural area to do the renovations for the past six months.
The company also seized the opportunity to secure some of AACo’s experienced meat workers when its plant shut earlier this year, sending those workers to one of its plants in Western Australia until the facility at Batchelor is ready to operate early next year.
“When we first start, we hope to employ 35 to 40 people and then we will probably go up to 100 people,” Mr Polovinka said.
“I would really like them to be locals, I like to support the local community.
“We want to get Indigenous people involved and make this facility something that the whole community is connected to.”