THE operator of the Casino meatworks has bought what is believed to be a controlling interest in the Ramsey Group which operated the now-defunct South Grafton abattoir.
The deal is considered a win for the co-operative and one which will boost its position in a sector where strength lies in securing consistently high volumes of cattle for processing.
Details of the plan and what it means for the Ramsey Group remain unclear, with key players and shareholders spoken to by The Northern Star unwilling to provide information on the deal.
Northern Co-operative Meat Company chairman George Bennett did confirm a letter was sent to shareholders last week advis- ing of the deal, but otherwise he remained tight-lipped.
"The letter has gone to shareholders; they are aware of what we've done," Mr Bennett said.
"It is something we considered an advantage to the Co-op. It is done."
Co-op general manager Gary Burridge was coyly silent on details of the deal, saying he considered it a "shareholder matter".
"As far as we are concerned it is a business transaction and that's all it is," Mr Burridge said.
"It has given security to this business and to our employees and to our producer members."
Mr Burridge did divulge that the deal included Ramsey Group boss Stuart Ramsey staying on in the business, but would not explain Mr Ramsey's role.
Mr Ramsey was unavailable for comment.
The deal formalises an arrangement which has existed essentially since the Ramsey Group closed its South Grafton abattoir in controversial circumstances on November 14. That resulted in all processing and some abattoir employees being transferred to the Casino meatworks.
The South Grafton closure followed a Land and Environment Court decision in October in which Ramsey Food Processing Pty Ltd was convicted and fined $300,000 for contempt. The conviction was against the company only and not Stuart Ramsey.
But the deal improves the viability of the Co-operative which lost $1 million in 2010/11.
According to Mr Burridge, that viability had been threatened by an ongoing dispute with Richmond Valley Council over the price the Co-op pays for water.
Viability generally in the sector has also been threatened by the high Australian dollar which is impacting the export business to which the Casino meatworks is heavily oriented.
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