New owner for CRF

COLAC meat processor CRF has changed owners for the second time in two years.

The lamb processor has sold to its major customer, the Australian Lamb Company, with employees learning of the sale yesterday afternoon.

The Australian Lamb Company will take over operations and management and rename the plant on October 1.

The company takes over from EC Agribusiness, which bought CRF in 2011.

ALC managing director John Verrall said the company had been a CRF customer for 13 years.

“This purchase gives the plant a great deal of security going into the future as this completes the final step in Australian Lamb Company’s ‘paddock to plate’ process,” Mr Verrall said.

“This is a very exciting opportunity for all employees involved in both businesses, and will provide great opportunities as Australian Lamb Company Pty Ltd strives to become the best lamb and mutton processing plant in Australia,” he said.

Mr Verrall said he felt CRF would continue to be one of Colac’s biggest employers for decades.

The company has about 400 employees in Colac.

CRF Group chairman Garry Edwards described the sale as a “natural progression”.

“The purchase of the CRF Group by the Australian Lamb Company represented a natural progression for the development of the CRF business from a service processing works to a fully integrated meat-processing business,” Mr Edwards said.

The ownership change comes two years after CRF’s shareholders sold the company to a consortium of Brisbane’s EC Agribusiness and existing shareholder Jack Barclay.

Mr Barclay stayed on as chief executive officer and majority shareholder until two months ago.

The Australian Lamb Company has a plant at Sunshine with 100 employees and it exports to hotels, restaurants, airlines, butchers and supermarkets across 43 countries.

Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union organiser Jarrod Jones said employees’ conditions should be secure in the ownership change.

“As far as the employees there at the moment, nothing will change because they’re covered by an agreement,” Mr Jones said.

“Their wages and conditions cannot change,” he said.

Former Colac mayor Jim Ryan, who was among the civic leaders and businesspeople who saved the meatworks from shutting in the late 1990s, welcomed the sale.

I think the pleasing thing is that it’s still going to continue, because it’s been great for Colac,” Mr Ryan said.

“The previous abattoir was going to lapse and then CRF came into being and created this huge impetus for Colac as a whole and created great employment,” he said.

Mr Ryan said he hoped the ownership change would not affect staff numbers.

“I think it’s terribly important they continue to maintain the same level of employment, it’s important for Colac,” he said.

Reprinted from Colac Herald
6 September 2013