VICTORIAN Treasurer Tim Pallas has firmed up his government's commitment towards expansion at Frewstal during a visit to the abattoir on Friday.
Mr Pallas had the opportunity to tour the facility and learn first hand the priorities of the company and the constraints it faces continually as it strives to expand further into the export market.
Once a proud meat worker himself during his schooling days, Mr Pallas said it was a great opportunity for him to hear about expansion plans at the abattoir and about the push for more exporting.
The visit follows a commitment made prior to the State Election from Labor, that it would commit $500,000 towards an expansion at Frewstal if elected.
Frewstal general manager Greg Nicholls said a massive focus for the company at present was working towards obtaining an export licence into China.
He said this would open up enormous opportunities for the abattoir and allow for further expansion in the future.
"What we are working towards at the moment is trying to get our Chinese (export) licence," Mr Nicholls said.
"It's probably the goal of most meat plants to get their Chinese licence. We've had our export licence for three years now and initially that was a tier one licence where we could go to Middle Eastern countries and a few of the lesser countries. Then six months ago we obtained our tier two licence, which enables us to go to pretty much everywhere apart from the European Union countries and China.
"So that's the goal we are working towards at the moment, to get that Chinese licence."
Mr Nicholls said the company obtained its United States export licence four weeks ago and this would enable Frewstal to export its product not only to America, but also Canada and Mexico.
However, the big ticket item for the company would be the Chinese licence.
"Going back 12 months ago, the Chinese were paying premium, not so much for better cuts of meat, but things like lamb necks and lamb flaps, things that are probably not that popular in a lot of other countries," Mr Nicholls said.
"Obviously their economy has gone off the boil a bit over the last 12 months, but we're working to get our way in there.
"The goal is for us to get that Chinese licence and it will be a real feather in our cap if we do get it."
Mr Nicholls said there were a few hurdles that Frewstal needed to get over, in order to obtain the licence to export its product into China.
"The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry are the regulators at the moment and they are telling us that Chinese are big on separation," he said.
"You have to have the boning room workers not mixing with the kill floor workers. At the moment they all eat in the same amenities, not at the same time, but they are in the same amenities.
"Under a Chinese licence, we have to have separate amenities for them to eat in and for them to get changed in.
"On the kill floor, the 'skin on' workers, have to have a separate entrance to the skin off workers. They can't cross contaminate with each other either."
Mr Nicholls said one part of the project had commenced on site, which meant the company had to move its unloading area.
"There are quite a few big projects that we have to do just to get in there," he said.
"From what we are hearing through the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, it's a little clouded as to what the Chinese really want, but we have to think outside the square a bit and overdo it more than underdo it.
"They only come out here now and again. We're being told they are possibly out here early next year and we have told DAFF that we want to be on the list for them to come and look at our plant. That's why we can't waste any time doing what we are trying to do.
"We won't be the only ones putting out hands up for them to come and visit so we just don't want to take any chances. We want to make sure that what we present to them is over and above what they expect."
Mr Pallas said he understood the Chinese were very concerned about food security, which is understandable given the recent contamination problems.
The Treasurer said he hoped the funding provided would assist Frewstal achieve its goal of obtaining a Chinese licence and continuing with the expansion of the Stawell plant.
"I've had a number of discussions with big Chinese companies and they see the Free Trade Agreement as a real opportunity for them to get into the Australian and Victorian market in particular," Mr Pallas said.
"What they are also telling me is that they like an integrated model of supply They like to have engagement with the suppliers of the meat, the abattoir and the supply chain all the way through to China.
"I think it is in everybody's interests that we are aware of what they want and try and make sure that we can deliver it to them."
Mr Pallas said he would be flying to Shanghai in two months to reinforce that Victoria is open for business, particularly in food and fibre in regional Victoria.
"hey are very interested in meat over there. They're the big ticket items at the moment," he said
"Anything I can do or the State Government can do to make them feel greatly loved and appreciated, we will do.
"When they do come to town, let us know and we will send the Minister along to show the Chinese that it's all part of the one strategy of the state and your business."
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