Council canvasses options for new NRLX fee structure

RICHMOND Valley Council is seeking feedback from sellers and agents over options for a flexible new pricing structure at the Northern Rivers Livestock Exchange, which aims to provide certainty for the industry over the next three years.

Prior to the 2019-2020 financial year, amid severe drought conditions, Council took the initiative to freeze sale fee increases at the facility to support the sustainability of the local industry at a critical time.

Fortunately, sustained above average rainfall in 2020 sparked a boom in sales and pushed cattle prices at the NRLX to record highs, in a welcome recovery for producers and agents.

The bumper second half of the year follows the redevelopment of the facility, which transformed the NRLX into a state-of-the-art facility well equipped to meet the needs of the livestock industry into the future.

NRLX Manager Bradley Willis said Council was considering two different structures for seller fees, and was keen to hear from stakeholders on their preference.

Mr Willis said one of the options was a progressive and flexible fee structure which fluctuated depending on cattle prices.

He said this was designed as a support mechanism to enable producers to pay significantly less when cattle prices were lower.

He said based on historical data, under this proposed structure vendors would have paid less during last year’s drought, and less for three out of the past eight years, as well as the same price for four of the past eight years and a higher fee for one year.

“Particularly when prices are lower, our vendors will pay less to use the NRLX,” Mr Willis said.

“Given the extremes experienced across the Valley over the past 12 months this structure provides the NRLX and vendors with a genuine flexibility, which reflects market conditions.”

Based on the experience of the industry during the drought, Mr Willis said such a fee structure would clearly support producers during challenging times by reducing their overheads.

He said the other option was a traditional fee structure, with consistent annual increases of three percent, identical to the structure in place prior to the freezing of fees last year.

He said during the consultation process with stakeholders, other alternative options may also be canvassed.

“We are listening to the needs of stakeholders and open to any alternative options which may be put forward,” Mr Willis said.

Mr Willis said it was supportive for the industry as a whole to move forward with a clear three-year proposal in the current global climate.

He said both proposed fee structures were competitive considering the modern facilities on offer at the NRLX.

“Council has made a significant investment in this facility thanks to support from State and Federal governments in recent years,” Mr Willis said.

“Thanks also to the infrastructure and technology investments made during the redevelopment, when COVID-19 restrictions were introduced the NRLX was able to rapidly change its operating procedures and commenced livestreaming sales via the online StockLive platform to comply with social distancing.

“This service was implemented for agents and vendors at no charge during the peak of COVID-19.”

Mr Willis said the upgraded NRLX attracted buyers from across NSW, Queensland, and even Victoria, because it offered significantly greater value than their local facilities.

“We have a first-class facility, growing and improved services to agents, vendors, carriers and buyers,” he said.

“We are continuously striving for improved services, as well as improving maintenance to ensure safety of the facility and its workers.”

Council is also proposing to set agent fees to $1 per head, which was a price proposed in 2016-2017 prior to the redevelopment of the facility.

At that time Council acknowledged the temporary disruption of the redevelopment work and offered a significant discount to agents for the duration of the upgrade.

A short survey will be sent to stakeholders next week. In the meantime, the budget papers are available for viewing at richmondvalley.nsw.gov.au/council/on-exhibition/

Public submissions are welcomed and can be made online, via email to council@richmondvalley.nsw.gov.au, or via post to Locked Bag 10, Casino NSW 2470.

Submissions close 4.30pm, Tuesday 16 June.

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