With transport costs amounting to 40 per cent of the market price for beef producers, Cattle Council of Australia has backed the Queensland government’s call for road funding.
Cattle Council of Australia president Howard Smith said live cattle faced some of the longest journeys to market of any Australian commodity.
In northern Australia, livestock cartage from farm to saleyards or eastern seaboard processors can average from 1000 to 2500km.
Mr Smith said roads were vast in northern Australia with cattle transport movements difficult during the wet season.
Queensland’s Palaszczuk Government is seeking $590 million in federal funding for 25 projects under the Australian Government’s Northern Australian Roads Program.
Mr Smith welcomed the commitment from Queensland and called upon all levels of government to collaborate as a matter of priority.
He said improved roads and related infrastructure was critical to developing the north.
“The northern cattle herd alone accounts for nearly 70 per cent of the Australian beef industry, and 75 per cent of the nation’s live export cattle,’’ Mr Smith said.
“The total gross value of the northern beef industry is estimated at $5 billion annually.
“Under the Grass fed Beef Industry Strategic Plan 2020, it was estimated an improvement in infrastructure and logistics would deliver $12 million in net income benefits to the nation by 2020 and $71 million by 2040.’’
CSIRO estimates there are 20 million cattle transport movements in a given year between more than 100,000 beef enterprises across Australia.
The Queensland Government submission focused on eight key freight routes, including the Flinders, Landsborough, Gregory, Peak Downs, Capricorn Highway and the Gregory Developmental Road.
A listed priority was the progressive sealing of the Hann Highway, north of Hughenden in central Queensland.
The CSIRO’s Transport Network Strategic Investment Tool modelled the potential benefits of sealing the remaining 105km of the Hann Highway.
Travel time would be reduced on the highway from five to 3.5 hours, saving about 1160 hours for the estimated 1300 road trains using the road each year.
Once sealed, the highway is expected to carry 25 per cent more heavy vehicles, relieving congestion on coastal highways.
These benefits translated to a modelled cost saving of $1.23 million a year, plus additional savings from shorter return journeys for empty trucks and benefits to other road users.
The Australian Government’s $100 million Northern Australia Beef Roads program is focused on improving the northern Australia cattle supply chains, with CSIRO modelling and the beef community providing assistance for the identification of investment priorities.
Mr Smith said identifying road investment priorities for cattle transport was the hot topic during a roundtable meeting between the Northern Beef Futures and Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development in the Kimberley last year.
“Cattle Council has worked hard to remove trade and technical barriers in accessing market exports, with the grass fed sector facing both significant opportunities and challenges,’’ he said.
“There is a strong and growing demand for beef in our wider region but we cannot continue to face the impediments of a poor road network adding significant cost to the production of one of the nation’s biggest export commodities, beef.’’
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