Oakey Beef Exports aims to start construction by the end of 2016 on a $30 million plant expansion after the State Government approved funds for a vital rail link.
General manager Pat Gleeson said the new cold store facilities would enable the Darling Downs plant to increase throughput from 1100-1200 head of cattle per day to about 1650.
Mr Gleeson said the company was finalising the project design to be submitted for final approval by the board of Japanese-owned parent company Nippon Ham.
The cold stores project is Stage 1 of a two-part expansion which will eventually allow Oakey Beef Exports to operate seven days a week and double its capacity. The combined upgrades would also see the plant increase its workforce from 730 to about 1400, Mr Gleeson said.
The Queensland Government last week committed $2.5 million to upgrade rail sidings on the western rail line at Oakey and Morven and reopen part of the old Cecil Plains branch line.
Treasurer Curtis Pitt said this work would help facilitate rail cattle movements from South West Queensland to Oakey, which was critical to Oakey Beef Exports’ to double capacity.
The rail upgrade work is expected to begin within six months and the government has been working with bodies including Murweh Shire Council and the South West Regional Economic Development Association to identify further opportunities the project may bring.
Mr Gleeson expected the Stage 1 plant expansion to take about a year to build and said there would be opportunities for local suppliers.
“We always try to engage locally wherever we can,” he said.
He described the rail link confirmation as great news in terms of jobs at the abattoir and for stakeholders such as beef and grain producers who would benefit from increased capacity at Oakey Beef Exports.
But he said revitalising the western rail line should open up other new opportunities.
“I’m positive it’s one of those ‘build it and they will come’ things,” Mr Gleeson said.