MEAT processors' ability to deal with extra carbon tax costs are being hamstrung by clashing policies from the Federal Government and Opposition, an Australian Farm Institute conference has been told.
John Berry, from JBS Australia which owns and runs Australia's largest beef processing plant at Dinmore near Ipswich, told the conference in Brisbane on Wednesday that its 2000-staff plant faced an extra tax burden of $23 per tonne, not including the utility costs imposed through higher electricity and water.
Mr Berry said he believed that regardless of who was in power following the next Federal election in late 2013, there would still be at least another three years of the carbon tax.
The Opposition, he said, would struggle to rescind the legislation in that length of time even if it kept its pledge to wipe out the taxation once elected.
Between now and a potential future without a tax, JBS had to decide whether to fork out valuable money to lessen its carbon footprint or cop the tax as it waits to see how political winds blow."
We take (sustainability) very seriously, as do many in the beef industry," Mr Berry said.
"Our overview is that the tax will be in place for the first three years no matter what government it is.
"Do we invest as a business in mitigating the costs or pay the tax?
"With JBS exporting 80% of its meat to 100 countries, it could not pass on those extra costs to overseas buyers at a time of intense competition.
"Even with government grants allowing dollar-for-dollar investment, any decision needed to pay commercial benefits to justify its share of funds from the business," he said.