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The game meat industry in Australia

PETER THOMPSON: Australia's game meat export industry has, at a glance, got everything going for it: seemingly vast and virtually untapped markets and an abundance of resources and a genuine health advantage over many traditional meats. The latest venture involves a Queensland company and a Chinese partner who will open the Kangaroo Cafe in Beijing. But talk to those in the business and they'll tell you it's a highly competitive one and surprisingly fickle. Joining me this morning is Mike Mulligan who is President of the Australian Game Meat Producers' Association and General Manager of Southern Game Meats. How are you, Mike. Just, first of all, before dealing with the export market, on the domestic market, has there been some decline in the interest shown in, say, kangaroo meat?

MIKE MULLIGAN: No, I don't believe so. I read that article in the Herald on Saturday morning, but I think that the demand for kangaroo meat - I'm talking specifically more for the Sydney market now - it's been quite steady. It's never going to threaten the red meat industry but it's just something that's going to take time.

PETER THOMPSON: But we're a national program. What about the national demand for kangaroo meat?

MIKE MULLIGAN: Well, it's different rules for different States and different legislation. It's very complex. Whilst kangaroo can be eaten in all parts of Australia, there's different regulations as to how you go about selling, how you display it and how you present it. And so it's not a very clear-cut picture across the continent.

PETER THOMPSON: But demand is growing, is it?

MIKE MULLIGAN: Demand is growing, for sure. Yes.

PETER THOMPSON: And what about processing, domestic processing? Is it growing with it - obviously?

MIKE MULLIGAN: Well, processing is growing. Yes, it has to, to meet the demand.

PETER THOMPSON: Of course, the processing involves quite substantial investment, doesn't it?

MIKE MULLIGAN: Well, it starts right out in the bush, Peter, from the shooters, their investment in their vehicles, and companies investments in chillers, the education of the shooters and the hygiene practises in handling game, and right through to transport systems and to processing factories.

PETER THOMPSON: Now, let's think about the red .. the export market. The red meat industry, I guess everyone knows how fickle it is and how demanding the export markets are in terms of serving their particular needs. Is it the same for game meats like kangaroo?

MIKE MULLIGAN: I'd say it's more so and it's not just kangaroo. Australia's involved in exporting wild boar and goats and rabbits, and more recently emu, et cetera. But the competition and what has to be met in terms of demands of other countries, when it comes to game, I think far exceeds the requirements of the red meat industry.

PETER THOMPSON: Why?

MIKE MULLIGAN: Well, Australia's lucky in its own right, in that part of your opening comments you made, the comment about the healthiness of game meat or referred to that, Australia's looked at because of its position in the world as having a resource that is free of all these pesticides and herbicides and all the various other diseases that are more common in other parts of Europe. But because of that, the requirements for checking of product et cetera, that must be carried out in European countries, that don't apply to the red meat industry, are forced on us here in Australia for our Australian game.

PETER THOMPSON: Well you, of course, are President of the Game Meat Producers' Association. I mean, does the association and producers have their act together in terms of international marketing?

MIKE MULLIGAN: Very much so. We're a body that meet quite frequently. We have a very close liaison, for instance, with Foreign Affairs and Trade. We would talk almost on a daily basis with representatives from Austrade. Because of the type of business that we have, we actually have Department of Primary Industry or Australian Quarantine Inspection Service people in our plants every day of the week that we're operating. So, yes, we're very aggressive about how we go about what we do overseas.

PETER THOMPSON: We only have a few seconds left. Can you put a dollar figure on what it's all worth?

MIKE MULLIGAN: No, I can't, unfortunately. Australian statistics don't group the game industry together as one.

PETER THOMPSON: All right. Rough ball-park figure?

MIKE MULLIGAN: Rough ball-park figure - oh, the whole industry, including the rabbits and the goats and everything else, it would be more than $100 million.

PETER THOMPSON: Thanks for joining me this morning.