Where’s the Beef? Rockhampton Beef week 2015

Michael Matthewson

We caught up with Wiley’s Business Operations Manager for Toowoomba and Southern Queensland, Michael Matthewson, about his trip to Beef Week 2015.

You were amongst about 85,000 people who attended Beef Week 2015 in Rockhampton in May, what was your experience of the country’s largest event dedicated to the beef industry?

It was enormous and spectacular. It was much bigger than I expected with a wide range of businesses representing their diverse interests across the beef industry. There were people from all over Australia there including the leaders and chief officers from large-scale processors. What I found interesting was the huge number of international delegates that turned out this year.

It is reported that more than 1000 delegates from close to 30 countries attended the event. In fact, it was the largest international attendance rate ever. Why do you think there is such strong international interest in this event?

I think there are two main reasons. Firstly, food security is a growing issue around the world and it is only going to become more important. For some countries it is one of their top priorities and they are on a fact-finding mission to discover ways to secure their nations’ future food supplies. Secondly, they know that Australia produces food really well so they want to learn how we do it and find opportunities to invest in. Part of that is coming to big events like Beef Week and talking to large processors and producers.

There was particularly strong delegate representation from South East Asian countries such as China, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan. What are the main opportunities for the Australian beef industry to work with these countries in the future?

The quality of Australia’s cattle has a very positive reputation amongst our neighbours in South East Asia. This puts us in a strong position to provide these countries with the premium meat that their consumers are increasingly seeking. There is no doubt we are an attractive investment option too. We have many successful farming and processing enterprises as well as prime agricultural land that is very desirable. However, it is not just our farms and soil that they are interested in. We have considerable knowledge and expertise that is of great interest and value to them. This is a terrific ‘export’ opportunity that has great potential and definitely needs to be explored more.

Beef Week 2015
Michael talking to Malaysian investor John Lee about new meat processing facilities

Wiley designs and builds food and meat processing facilities in Australia and overseas. How useful is Beef Week to helping Wiley meet and engage with companies from across the world beef supply chain?

If you want to make connections within the industry and have a better understanding of the people and issues within it then it is definitely the place to be. For Wiley, all our clients are there so it is a great way to catch up and demonstrate our commitment to that industry. Trade Invest Queensland did an awesome job connecting us with some international visitors. We had several meetings and they have produced strong leads so it is extremely beneficial in that way too. It was also a chance for us to meet with the Mayor of a local government that we hope to do further work with. Beef Week made it convenient and possible to see them again in person and strengthen that relationship which is really important to us.

What was the predominant message or outlook that was expressed by the delegates that you met?

The mood was certainly upbeat. Most importantly, what came out of it was the message that there is enormous opportunity. There are many people out there who want to take the next step but are not sure how or where. They know there is a lot of opportunity but are searching for what is going to be right for them. Cattle producing and beef processing is a multi-million dollar industry and a major employer. It is a serious business and they are serious about doing things well and right. On the other hand, drought continues to have significant impacts for people. I think the event would have been even larger if not for the drought forcing some people to stay home.

Lastly, what will be your enduring impression of Beef Week 2015?

Beef Week is a serious place for serious discussion about the industry. It is the mecca, if you will, for the Australian, if not the Asia Pacific, beef industry. If you are in that market it is definitely a must-do event. We will be back there next time, hopefully in a much larger capacity. Now with our office in Kuala Lumpur it is even more important that Wiley connects with clients beyond Australia and Beef Week has proved that it is the place to do that.