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Regional roadshow to attract co-operative members

WA Producers Co-operative is embarking on a membership drive with plans to hold four public forums across the Great Southern this month.

The for-profit, distributing co-operative has 14 farming business as formation members who each have one voting share.

The WAPC board hopes to attract 30 members by the end of the month, with the aim of having 100 members by July 2022.

The group, founded a year ago, plans to hold separate forums at Katanning, Cranbrook, Borden and Jerramungup on July 21, 23, 28 and 30.

The free forums are open to any Great Southern farmers to learn more about how the new co-operative can benefit farmers across the region.

A presentation will be followed by a question and answer session, exploring the pros and cons of joining the farmer co-operative.

WA Producers Co-operative Christine Kershaw said the business had seen “strong demand for value added meat products”.

“We are having a crack at getting ourselves organised to meet that demand,” she said.

“But we need infrastructure, traceability and marketing programs.

“This will support the hard work of our farmer members so we can be a reliable supplier in high value markets.”

The farmer-owned lamb, beef and niche grain commodity supply group aims to value-add by securing premium, niche markets.

It was launched by grower group Stirlings to Coast Farmers last February after a two-year feasibility study funded by the State Government.

The new co-operative has been busy building the business from the ground up since it officially opened in July.

It formed a board and has been working with its members to trial the sale of prime lambs and setting up on-farm support programs.

Dr Kershaw said the co-operative had received feedback about what was needed and where farmers want the business positioned in the market.

“Selling basic commodities is a race to the bottom,” she said.

“Why would you sell a commodity at the farm gate if there was an opportunity to add value somehow.

“If not, it is others that benefit most from the hard work on farm. We have put our feet in the marketplace.”

Dr Kershaw said water dominated a lot of conversations, with nearly all of the 12 areas declared water deficient in WA in the Great Southern.

“If we want to increase flock numbers in WA, we need to act on water infrastructure,” she said.

“We need new water security measures on farm and production models that are more adaptable to increasingly localised weather stations and adopting new technology to help our members adapt their production systems in real time.

“We are also looking at developing feed options for members from out-of-specification grain.”

Dr Kershaw said the task was now for the Co-operative to build a solid business and increase supply, but it needed more members.

“As a co-operative, our business stands and falls on our ability to procure good quality livestock from our member suppliers and deliver value to them,” she said.

“We have a good business model to achieve that and we will be holding public meetings to share our vision with local producers who may be interested in joining the Co-op.

“WA livestock producers who might want to get involved are invited to attend our July forums to see for themselves what the new Co-op has to offer them”.

WAPC was awarded $225,000 by the Regional New Industries Fund last June, to develop a digital supply chain and undertake a trial of digitally tracked high value WA meat products into Asia during the next two years.

The group has a seven person board chaired by Woodgenellup farmer Ken Drummond, and including three independent directors — Juliet Grist, Glen Thompson, Andrew Sharpe — and six member directors Sandy Forbes, Darren Moir, and Chris Enright.

To RSVP, contact WA Producers Co-operative marketing officer Samantha Jeffries at samantha.jeffries@waproducers.com.au or text 0429 236 729.

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