AgUP Grants Program

The Federal Government has announced $7.3m in grant funding for industry-led, workforce projects to address the challenges of attracting and retaining agricultural labour.

“Following our sustained advocacy campaign on this issue government has designed a program to meet the short, medium and long-term workforce needs of Australian primary producers. Importantly, the Government has responded to our key message that we need more farmer led and industry-informed solutions,” said Melina Morrison, CEO of the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM).

Applications are invited from industry-led consortia comprised of members with the knowledge and experience to make contributions to each project’s success and sustainability.

The BCCM thanked members of the Council who had provided valuable insights and information on the workforce challenges for Australian farmers, fishers and foresters to the National Agricultural Workforce Taskforce last year.

“Our submission to the Taskforce outlined industry-led workforce initiatives by BCCM agricultural co-operative members to show that the solutions were out there and could be incentivised.”

The BCCM invites farmers, fishers and foresters interested in co-operative workforce solutions to contact the Council for advice and assistance on applying to the AgUp program. Applications are open now and close on 20 January.

Read the Government media release

Read the BCCM submission to the National Agricultural Workforce Taskforce

Momentum to start business co-operatives spreads from farm gate to regional towns

  • COVID-induced supply chain disruption renews focus on the co-operative business model
  • BCCM education program highlights a demand to operate differently
  • View that “co-operatives are outdated” labelled misplaced
  • Second educational podcast season launched

Renewed interest in farming co-operatives across Australia has led the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) to launch a second season of its successful podcast series Meet the Co-op Farmers.

Melina Morrison, CEO of the BCCM, said the interest in co-operative business models had continued to trend upward since the Council finished a previous two-year co-operative farming education program funded by the Commonwealth Government.

“Our help hotline is still ringing with inquiries from across regional Australia about starting co-operatives,” said Morrison. “But now the inquiries are coming from community members in regional towns as well as the farmers, showing the drive to co-operate has extended beyond the farm gate to an interest in co-operative business models more generally. It’s driven by the challenges of making a sustainable living in agriculture as well as access to affordable high-quality services and goods in regional and rural centres.”

Ms Morrison said the demutualisation era in the 80s and 90s, when Australia lost many farmer-owned and controlled food and beverage manufacturing businesses to corporate takeovers, had fuelled the idea that co-operatives were a thing of the past.

“Nothing could be further from the truth. Co-operatives have continued to be important vehicles for ensuring farmers get a better farm gate return as well as access to services and goods in the towns that serve rural communities.

“The health crisis and economic shock of the last two years has also refocused attention on the need for national food security and domestically owned supply chains. No-one wants to be in the middle of a pandemic and not be able to process their own food or source agricultural supplies.

“We are seeing co-operatives start up in industries like meat processing, where ownership has become concentrated to the point where the supply chain is extremely vulnerable in times of crisis.”

Following the success of the BCCM’s business education and development program, Co-operative Farming, the peak body is calling for a national co-operative business growth centre to help communities help themselves to recover from the hardship of the COVID pandemic, as well as natural disasters including the 2020 summer bushfires.

“The community has been through a lot. It has been keenly felt in rural and regional Australia where it’s hard to access health and other services. In co-ops, people have a reliable and effective business model for meeting their common needs together. It’s natural for rural communities to turn to co-operation in times of crisis. The spirit of mateship and community is alive and well across regional Australia and we saw this come to the fore during COVID.

“The second season of our podcast Meet the Co-op Farmers will shine a light on some of the most exciting new co-operatives being formed around Australia,” said Morrison.  “They include a co-operative retail store being established in Cootamundra to fill the void left by Target which closed during the pandemic.”

Chair of the new co-op Leigh Bowden said that the idea of a co-op had been embraced by the small community not just because they needed somewhere to buy essentials like socks and work boots, but because they were interested in preserving their way of life: “It’s to do with the social dividend. They’re investing in a community project, and it will help the sustainability and the viability of the town.

“What’s interesting about the membership that’s investing is that it’s way beyond Cootamundra,” Bowden added.  “There are people who have lived here and left but who still love Cootamundra and want it to thrive.”

Other podcast episodes include the story of a new producer-owned meat processor in South Australia and many more.

Farmers, fishers and foresters wanting to know more about starting a co-operative can contact the BCCM via the one-stop shop www.coopfarming.coop.

Co-operatives should be included in disaster and recovery planning

  • BCCM report highlights the role of co-operatives in helping communities bounce back from the 2019/20 bushfires
  • Co-operatives should have a seat at the table when Government plans resilience and recovery policy and responses
  • Federal Minister Senator Bridget McKenzie acknowledges role of co-ops during disaster recoveries

The Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) today called for the sector to be included in national resilience and recovery planning after their vital contribution to rebuilding communities affected by the 2019/20 bushfires.

Just on two years since the outbreak of the deadly fire season, the Primary Producer Co-operatives: the beating heart of Community resilience and recovery report, released today by the BCCM highlights the role co-operatives can play in building community resilience as climate change is increasing the occurrence of natural disasters.

The BCCM said the co-operative business model is largely unheralded but has proved itself, both during and after the bushfires, as local co-operatives provided crucial services and support to affected communities.

“This report demonstrates that member-owned businesses, where people have real skin in the game, are often the best positioned to assess risk and plan for disasters,” said BCCM Chief Executive Melina Morrison.

“Where a local co-operative was able to coordinate a local disaster response, our report shows the community recovered quickly and in some cases built a stronger economy post disaster,” Ms Morrison said.

“We know that the bushfires will come again,” she said.

“This report shows a clear way forward to ensure our communities are well prepared to meet that threat by giving greater recognition to the co-operative business model. The health crisis of COVID-19 has also heightened community awareness and concern about food security. Agricultural co-operatives help secure vital supply chains in times of disaster.”

The report, Primary Producer Co-operatives: the beating heart of Community resilience and recoveryfocuses on the experience of four co-operatives in responding to disaster. They include the 120-year-old Cobargo Co-operative, which was instrumental in the NSW town’s recovery from the 2019 bushfires and ORICoop, which has provided financial, emotional and specialist support to organic farmers around Australia impacted by the fires.

“If there’s one thing we’ve learnt, it’s that even the best funded and resourced government agencies cannot do it all on their own,” said Ms Morrison.  “Local communities need to be at the heart of the response.”

“From the co-op that ran its store from a notebook ledger when the power, internet and phones were down, to the co-operative that made banana bread from salvaged fruit to safeguard the livelihoods of its farmer members following a devastating cyclone, the stories of innovation and ingenuity in the face of disaster told in this report speaks to the characteristic of co-operatives and mutuals being trusted social networks.”

“Co-operatives are known multipliers of investment, whether its grants, or re-investment of their own surpluses in their local economy,” Ms Morrison said.

“They are ideal partners for relief agencies because they represent their communities and exist solely to benefit those communities. The report shows how co-operatives can make modest grants and community investments go a long way.”

Ms Morrison points to the Cobargo Co-operative, which used a $15,000 grant to fund a tool library, which is now a separate not for profit organisation lending much needed tools to the community for free.

Another example was the $89,000 in cash donations which ORICoop turned into $450,000 worth of value to assist 15 bushfire affected farmers to restore soil quality and return to farm activity in seven different parts of Australia.

“During the bushfires, people wishing to donate to devastated communities had confidence in the ability of co-operatives to distribute funds appropriately. Because they had local knowledge they could deliver tailored solutions, prioritise effectively to triage relief to those most in need and avoid some pitfalls of top-down giving such as ‘dumps’ of unsuitable aid from donors,” Ms Morrison said.

“Co-operatives are highly effective at deploying relief funds because they are based on values of solidarity and trust, and they exist with the core aim of delivering benefits for their members,” Ms Morrison said. Governance is always locally based which increases accountability.

The report makes a number of recommendations to Government, including that co-operatives be given greater access to business support as part of any recovery programs, and that the sector be more engaged in disaster response and recovery planning. The report also recommends that in communities where a farmer or customer-owned co-operative retailer exists, they should be delivery partners of preference for local relief and rebuilding support.

“If we are looking for solutions, they lie at the heart of those communities where member-owned businesses have been quietly working at the local level to ensure all of the bases are covered.”

“Putting affected people at the centre of the disaster planning process and ensuring risk is understood and managed locally has been proven to be key to effective recovery. This is what co-operatives and mutuals do best.”

Minister for Emergency Management and National Recovery and Resilience, Senator the Hon Bridget McKenzie, said the BCCM report clearly demonstrates the value of the co-operative business model in effective grass roots management of disaster recovery.

“We cannot disaster-proof the country, but we can certainly work hard to ensure those communities most at risk are more resilient to the ongoing threats of living with Australia’s harsh climate,” Minister McKenzie said.

“Co-operatives have an important role to play in formulating strategies to assist communities in regional and rural Australia to deal with the effects of natural disasters.”

Australia has more than 2000 co-operatives, of which around 230 are primary producers. The top 100 Australian co-operatives and mutuals have a turnover of more than $32.8 billion, and 8 in 10 Australians are a member of at least one co-operative or mutual.

Learn more about community resilience and recovery, watch videos of our report launch and read case studies from the report.

Groundbreaking course for booming industry

Australia has an untapped resource of business in a sector that’s booming across the country – and now a groundbreaking new course will help people tap into that market.

The Co-operative Financials and Governance for Accountants and Lawyers Program, the first course of its kind, has been developed by the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) as a learning partner of Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand (CA ANZ).

The BCCM – Australia’s peak body for the co-operative and mutual sector – has created the course through its $2.5 million Australian Government funded Co-operative Farming program, in response to a huge amount of industry demand.

In agriculture alone, 229 co-operatives facilitate the operations of more than 24,000 member businesses in farming, fishing, forestry and irrigation. These include smaller marketing and packaging operations with high value produce such as truffles, right through to the country’s largest grain export and handling co-operative – CBH Group.

Minister for Agriculture and Northern Australia, the Hon David Littleproud MP, said the course was something rural and regional Australia sorely needed.

“It is vitally important to educate accountants and lawyers servicing our farmers about business models that could deliver improved economic outcomes and, more broadly, improve the sustainability of their communities,” Minister Littleproud said.

“This course is the first of its kind and is filling an essential gap in professional services in the bush.

“Australia’s lawyers and accountants are currently graduating without spending any time on this type of business model.

“That means our farmers are missing out on the opportunity to consider if a co-operative could be the right option for them because their local accountant simply doesn’t know about them.”

The course has been created in response to the 2016 Senate report into co-operative, mutual and member-owned firms, which Minister for Regionalisation, Regional Communication and Regional Education Senator the Hon Bridget McKenzie co-chaired.

“The inquiry identified a critical skills gap in this area and recommended accountants and legal practitioners should have a demonstrated knowledge of co-operatives,” Minister McKenzie said.

“There is untapped potential in the co-operative business sector and specialised accountants and legal practitioners can fill the gap in the market by being educated on this business model.”

Melina Morrison, chief executive of the BCCM, thanked the Commonwealth Government for the funding.

“Funding through the Co-operative Farming program will ensure more Australian farmers can access professional advisors who understand their business model,” Morrison said.

Morrison said the COVID pandemic had focused attention on supply chain resilience and the importance of food security.

“Co-operatives are 100 per cent Aussie owned and operated businesses that ensure the profits and the ownership stays local,” she said.

“It’s good to have these businesses around in a crisis.”

The course – held over a series of three sessions kicking off on August 17 – is being facilitated by Henry Botha, principal of Higgins Botha, and will be presented by Kevin Franey and Mark Ellem, both partners at TNR Chartered Accountants, and Katie Innes of BAL Lawyers.

“Our practice has been working with large and small co-operatives for the past 100 years, with clients in the agriculture and processing sectors,” Mr Franey said.

“The opportunity to share our expertise with accountants and lawyers around Australia is genuinely exciting and this course is designed to truly benefit professionals like us, or those who want to up-skill in this area.”

ABC documentary celebrates Australia’s co-op farmers

An innovative new documentary celebrating and showcasing Australian co-operative farmers and fishers is set to hit TV screens soon.

Fightback Farmers: Feeding Australia Together follows the fascinating journey of Aussie primary producers as they battle to save their businesses from the brink of disaster.

The ABC documentary features three innovative co-operatives who have been supported by the Business council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) through the Co-operative Farming project. These inspirational co-operatives are using a new and successful take on an old way of working collaboratively, in order to save their farms.

BCCM CEO Melina Morrison said: “We are thrilled the public broadcaster is screening such an important and heart-warming documentary about co-operative farming. The ABC is committed to telling interesting stories about everyday Australians and we are expecting viewers to enjoy and appreciate Fightback Farmers: Feeding Australia Together.

“At a time of unprecedented upheaval, Fightback Farmers is the story we need to hear about communities and families who keep striving to overcome adversity, and demonstrates why the co-op model is the right fit for these farmers.”

Screening on the ABC on June 15, Fightback Farmers: Feeding Australia Together follows co-operative farmers and fishers as they face the triumphs and tragedies of trying to stay on the land and keep operating through trade disruptions, climate disasters and even complete industry restructuring. Long cherished as the backbone of a nation, family farms and co-operatives are also the heart of local communities and it is important to tell their stories.

“We’re a bunch of farmers one day, and the next we’re all coming together to form a co-op,” says dairy farmer Stuart Crosthwaite in the documentary, discussing how the co-operative farming model saved them after the collapse of dairy giant, Murray Goulburn.

Crosthwaite is joined by fellow dairy farmers Teresa Hicks and Scott Mackillop, winemaker Fred Pizzini, pasta maker Silvana Micheli and lobster fisherman Craig ‘Slim’ Reilly in revealing their fascinating co-operative journeys. There are also interviews with TAFCO’s Tony Vaccaro and Lachlan Campbell, who talk about having to completely reinvent their businesses after the tobacco industry suddenly closed.

Executive Producer Steve Bibb, from Barking Mad Productions, said: “I’ve long admired the Australian families who dedicate their lives to living on the land – farming, feeding and clothing our nation – generation after generation. As a city boy, I also know that most of us don’t appreciate what is actually happening, that small family farms are disappearing. It begs the question: why?

“In Fightback Farmers, I wanted to meet some of these small farming families – the great characters – who are going back to the future. These farmers and fishers are turning back the clock in a new take on an old away of working together. As we discover, they’re trying to stand strong in the face of adversity for their farms, the future generations, their local communities and a way of life.”

Fightback Farmers: Feeding Australia Together was funded with the assistance of the Co-operative Farming project supported by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment through funding from the Australian Government’s Starting Farm Co-operatives Program.

Watch on ABC – June 15 9.30pm AEST

ABC iview immediately afterwards

Education about co-operative structures will help farmers reduce risk: Report

A new study has recommended increased education in the agricultural sector about the use of CMEs (co-operative and mutual enterprises) and ICMEs (insurance providing co-operative and mutual enterprises).

The National Farmer’s Federation this week released their two-year study, Financial Risk Management, funded by the NSW Government and drawing on support and advice from the Business Council for Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM).

Among other findings, the report recommended implementing national government policies to assist with new industry-led training and formal education programs about ICMEs for the farming community, as well as its advisors and financers. Currently, education about CMEs and ICMEs is not equal to other business structures, but the report found that co-operatives and mutuals can play an important role in helping farmers to transfer risk from farm gate through risk pools and other forms of group insurance and risk protection. It also found against a United States-style government-backed multi-peril crop insurance market.

The report also suggested the government establish a favourable regulatory framework for CMEs to protect their mutual status and ensure equal recognition and treatment with other businesses.

A survey conducted as part of the study found a lack of awareness amongst Australian farmers about the significant benefits to members of co-operatives and mutuals. These included strength in numbers reducing financial risk and bringing better products without higher prices.

Not only do ICMEs give farmers the opportunity to collective address risk mitigation in markets that have failed, the report advised, they can reduce reliance on government funding and improve the mental health impacts on farmers when unfunded losses are experienced.

BCCM CEO Melina Morrison said, “We are pleased that the study has recognised the key role mutuals and co-operative structures have played in most agricultural segments to help farmers manage risk globally, and that further uptake of co-ops and mutuals would be beneficial to farmers to mitigate risk.

“It is vital that the government considers the recommendations in the report for fiscal and regulatory measures to foster the establishment of co-ops and mutuals.”

BCCM assisted brokerage and advisory firm Willis Towers Watson to ascertain the role of co-operatives and mutuals in helping farmers manage risk. BCCM members were part of the Farmers’ Reference Group advising the study.

The report drew extensively on BCCM research including Co-operative Farming: Blueprint for Future Proofing Aussie Farmers.

The NFF Project: Financial Risk Management Project – National Farmers’ Federation (nff.org.au)

NFF Media Release: NFF completes farm risk management study – National Farmers’ Federation

Moving Co-operatives and Mutuals into the mainstream is a step towards a level playing field

The Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) was pleased to see the expansion of Government-recognised business structures to include Co-operatives listed alongside other business structures on the Commonwealth’s business information website www.business.gov.au.

Co-ops now join other business models on the ‘types of business structures’ pages.

CEO of BCCM, Melina Morrison said that with eight in 10 Australians being members of at least one co-operative or member-owned business, it is encouraging to see ongoing progress toward the full implementation of recommendations from the 2016 Senate Economic References Committee Report into Cooperative, mutual and member-owned firms.

“BCCM continues to advocate for co-ops and mutuals to be fairly represented in all areas of business and legislative reform,” Morrison said. “We work to ensure that government and business understand the transformative power of co-operatives and that this potential is not hamstrung by a lack of information, duplicate regulation and unnecessary complexity.

“Yesterday’s development sees co-operatives join the list of recognised business structures such as sole trader, company, partnership, and trust. Moving co-operatives and mutuals into the mainstream is a step towards a level playing field.

“Our thanks to the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources for consulting with BCCM to provide this information to Australians looking to start a co-operative.

“The site now rightfully recognises the co-operative structure as a legally incorporated entity that exists to serve the interests of members. In a co-op, ownership and control is shared equally amongst members – people, businesses, employees or other community stakeholders who work together to achieve a common purpose or outcome.

“This information will assist the dozens of entrepreneurs that contact BCCM every week looking for information about setting up a democratic, purpose-driven, co-operative enterprise with their peers.”

“In recent years, we have seen acknowledgement of mutuals in the Corporations Act; the move to enable capital raising without demutualisation through Mutual Capital Instruments (MCIs); a nationally-harmonised scheme of legislation regulating co-operatives Australia-wide, and increasingly, a voice for co-ops in national economic debates.

“We still have a long way to go to implement the recommendations of the Senate Report into ‘Cooperative, mutual and member-owned firms’. These recommendations are even more pertinent today.

“Economic recovery is dependent on resilient, stable businesses with secure end-to-end supply chains. Co-ops are proven to deliver on all of these counts and for decades, have provided stability to the Australian economy through times of crisis. We want to leverage the immense potential of this business model to help rebuild the Australian economy for generations to come.

“Until we fix the regulatory hurdles in front of co-ops and mutuals, their ability to fully engage in the economy for their members will be hampered.”

Meet the Co-op Farmers is the new podcast series telling the real stories from the farming frontline

A candid new podcast series is telling the candid stories and adventures of Australian farmers transforming their businesses by working together.

Featuring leading primary producers, the eight-episode podcast Meet the Co-op Farmers will address some of the biggest issues in farming and put forward solutions aimed at future-proofing Australian family farms.

The first two episodes have gone live this week. The first interview explores the David and Goliath battle of the Victorian Mountain Milk dairy co-operative, forced to fight for their survival after the collapse of Murray Goulburn. Mountain Milk Chair Stuart Crosthwaite tells renowned agricultural journalist Pete Lewis: “We were not receiving a fair market price for our milk. We had lots and lots of outstanding bills. It was unbelievably stressful financially. I was questioning whether I wanted to be farming any more. The co-op structure really hit a cord with us, because everyone was equal.”

Other co-operative farmers at the forefront of agriculture interviewed include Sweeter Bananas Doriana Mangili, Larry McHugh from nut powerhouse Marquis Macadamias and Natalie Browning from one of the world’s biggest co-operatives, CBH.

Farmers, fishers and other primary producers are known for their resilience, but in the last few years they have faced unprecedented challenges: drought, fires, floods, global commodity and export market impacts and COVID-19 restrictions. Co-operative farming is seen as giving farmers competitive advantage and market power by scaling, collaborating and innovating.

Melina Morrison, CEO of the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) said: “The stories we are telling are inspiring in this period of upheaval. Through the experiences of other farmers and education from experts, this podcast series will show primary producers how they can build resilience and growth in their business by coming together in a co-operative. Farmers tell their warts-and-all stories of coming together in co-operatives to make sure they cut out the middle man and take back the supply chain.”

Meet the Co-op Farmers Episodes 1 and 2 are out now, with more released weekly.

It is available for download on iTunes, Spotify and all good podcast hosting platforms.

Or you can subscribe at coopfarming.coop/podcasts

 

Meet the Co-op Farmers podcast

LIVE FROM THIS WEEK

The little dairy co-operative that could – Stuart Crosthwaite, Mountain Milk

How a little banana saved our farms – Doriana Mangili, Sweeter Banana

+ Extras: Meet the Co-op Farmers

 

MAY 20

How Australia’s largest grain exporter works – Natalie Browning, CBH

 

MAY 27

A fishing co-op formed with friendship – Rodger Long, Limestone Coast

 

JUNE 3

The farmer-owned berry company making $200 million a year – Stephen Thandi, Oz Group and fruit co-operatives

 

JUNE 10

How travelling the world’s farms helped Emma find the best way to run her huge cattle business – Emma Robinson, Beef Collaboration Project

 

JUNE 17

What’s at the heart of a community co-operative? – Kerry Murphy, TAFCO

 

JUNE 24

Secrets of the world’s biggest macadamia processing plant – Larry McHugh, Marquis Macadamias

Macadamia co-operative in huge Queensland expansion

Aussie macadamia growers working together in a co-operative have announced they are expanding their joint operations in Queensland, creating 40 new jobs.

Marquis Macadamias is the world’s largest macadamia processor and its Bundaberg facility is a vertically integrated growing, processing and wholesaling co-operative. The co-operative sources crop from a total of 180 shareholding growers and 170 non-shareholder growers throughout Australia.

Marquis Macadamias CEO Larry McHugh said the company’s expansion plans for its Bundaberg facility will boost employment and ensure future product demands can be met.

“With our facility currently operating at close to maximum capacity, this project will mean we’re ready to support future demands and grow and create long-term, stable jobs in Bundaberg,” Mr McHugh said.

Queensland Treasurer and Minister for Investment Cameron Dick yesterday announced support through the government’s $175 million Jobs and Regional Growth Fund will help Marquis Macadamias increase their processing capacity by 25 per cent.

“Global appetite for our macadamias is huge, and Marquis’ $13.3 million expansion will ensure local growers can take a bigger bite of export opportunities,” Mr Dick said.

“Industries such as agriculture and food manufacturing proved to be our state’s economic bedrock during the COVID-19 pandemic. Investments like this will ensure our economy’s recovery continues on its strong upward trajectory.

“This project will take Marquis’ annual processing capacity from 12,000 to 30,000 tonnes, allowing them to get more Queensland macadamias onto shelves and into households across the world. As part of the expansion, Marquis will build a new cold storage warehouse, specialised bulk drying and packing facilities, and a solar farm to generate power for their operations.

“This doesn’t just help Marquis Macadamias either, it’s of benefit to the hundreds of Aussie growers who Marquis work with to get supply.”

CEO of the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals, Melina Morrison welcomed the announcement.

“Co-operatives in Australia and across the world have led value driven food production. There are many successful co-operatively owned Australian food manufacturers.

“Co-operatives handle and store 40 per cent of our grain, package and export 40 per cent of our blueberries, process and market 60 per cent of our almonds and process and export most of our Western Rock Lobster fishery.

“As the Minister has pointed out, when Government partners with co-operative food manufacturers there is an extra benefit as the business is grower-owned and the proceeds of increased productivity are reinvested into Australian farming.”

Co-operative and mutual enterprises, or CMEs, are businesses owned by members rather than shareholders. Their members are their suppliers in a farmer owned co-operative and they are shared business ventures that enable individual entrepreneurs or businesses to work together for a common purpose. As a collaborative business vehicle, co-ops and mutuals facilitate the pooling of capital and business expertise so their members can compete in markets suited to larger entrants.

“Because of their shared local ownership, CMEs are domiciled in Australia, distribute wages and profit back into their community and are taxed in Australia,” said Melina Morrison.

“Co-operative business is key to the effort to grow a successful, sustainable and domestically owned manufacturing sector. We’d like to see more cases of Government supporting small producers to work together to grow existing medium-sized firms and create new ones.

“A long-term supportive regime for the establishment of new co-operative businesses in food-processing and manufacturing more generally will help protect the strategic ownership of assets in the national interest,” she said.

Master Butchers Co-op launches innovative SA apprentice incentive

The Master Butchers Co-operative (MBL) will this month launch the MBL Apprentice Incentive Scheme to help their members bring new apprentices into the industry.

MBL will cover set-up costs of up to $930, after subsidies, of any member’s new apprentice training in Certificate Ⅲ in Meat Processing (Retail Butcher) at TAFE SA, for students eligible for subsidised training. They will also cover the member for the apprentice wage on the days they are required to be training at TAFE Regency Park for the entire apprenticeship.

MBL CEO Jamie Higgins said the objective of the initiative is exposing all apprentices to the broad spectrum of skills required across the butchery discipline.

“It’s all about ensuring longevity in our industry and that new students are exposed to the full range of skills and services that butchers can learn and provide in Australia,” he said. “We are trying to bring butchers through because if we run out of butchers, we run out of co-operative members. We are focused on ensuring that the South Australian meat processing industry’s future is bright.”

Melina Morrison, CEO of the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals, said that the incentive was a good example of what the co-operative structure could do.

“As one of South Australia’s oldest cooperatives, MBL is supporting a sustainable industry for local butchers and meat processing in South Australia. MBL was here for the industry in 1905 when it formed and the co-op is still here,” she said. “When producers and service providers work together in one co-operative, it enables agility and innovation. A co-operative is seen as the best business structure to overcome adversity and make positive change and growth in production.”

To apply, members of the MBL Co-operative should email ApprenticeButcher@mblsa.com.au or call MEGT on 8424 3200 or Mas Experience on 1300 627 628.