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Meatworks investors promise more jobs and investment for Bourke

Group Managing Director of Thomas Foods International, Darren Thomas. Photo supplied

Major food processor and distributor, Thomas Foods International has finalised a deal to purchase the North Bourke meatworks, for an undisclosed price.

Under the agreement, TFI takes over the small stock abattoir with plans to re-open the facility, expand its operations, and employ more than 120 staff.

The plant opened in January 2019 but was closed by its original owners five months later, citing challenges including seasonal conditions at the time.

Thomas Foods International Livestock Manager, Paul Leonard, said the facility would be further upgraded before it is re-opened next year.

Despite its capacity to kill a range of small stock including lambs and sheep, Bourke would be used as a ‘pure-play’ goat facility.

The company kills goats at Tamworth and Lobethal in South Australia, but the Tamworth goat kill is likely to stop after Bourke opens – to be substituted by lambs or sheep.

“We see strong potential in this Bourke facility to service local farmers and create employment opportunities in the region,” Mr Leonard said.

“TFI has a reputation of making significant continuous investments in operations across Australia and we will bring the same approach to Bourke.

The plan is to begin processing goats from mid-2022.

Improved seasonal conditions and prices have seen the goat population grow significantly in recent times with many farmers now running goats in fenced properties.

“We’ve also seen more female goats retained to assist with breeding,” Mr Leonard said.

“Also, market conditions are favourable. Goat is one of the most widely eaten proteins in the world, and there is strong demand globally, from Asia to North America and the Caribbean.”

Demand for goatmeat in Australia’s largest export market, the US, has grown this year, as COVID restrictions ease across the US.

As the Bourke facility’s new owner, Thomas Foods International brings with it a strong track record in procurement, processing and distribution as well as established global market networks. TFI is currently paying a record $10.20/kg carcase weight for suitable goats, skin-off.

“We’re confident the Bourke plant will become a successful long-running operation for the region,” Mr Leonard said.

The purchase of the small stock abattoir at North Bourke by Thomas Foods International (TFI) will bring employment to the district and deliver a viable industry for years to come, according to Bourke Mayor, Barry Hollman.

“It’s exciting for the Bourke community, and I am pleased to have an international company buy into the abattoir,” Councillor Hollman said. “When news came through that TFI had purchased the meatworks, we were ecstatic about it. We will welcome them to town with open arms.

“If there is anything the Bourke Council can do to ensure a long-term presence of TFI, we will do it.

“For the community, it has huge potential. TFI is looking to make a range of capital improvements and bring jobs to the town, so it’s all systems go,” Councillor Hollman said.

Bourke stock and station agent, Greg Seiler, said it was the best news Bourke had had in a long time, and would have long term benefits to the local economy.

“It’s great for them to have the Bourke facility where producers can work closely with them,” Mr Seiler said.

“It’s a big commitment to the district and I am pleased it’s someone in the industry, not a newcomer, but a company with history, and deep roots within the pastoral areas of inland Australia.

“We will see the abattoir take Bourke to the next level and I am excited about the future of the town,” Mr Seiler said.

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