Mr Eastwood said key players in Tasmania’s salmon industry needed to do better in outlining the benefits the industry has brought to the state to counter hostile opposition from environmental groups.
“We are acutely aware of the sensitivities of this for all Tasmanians,” he said.
Mr Eastwood said JBS had also been candid in its dealings with Rich Lister Andrew Forrest in an acrimonious takeover battle for Huon, and was now looking forward, not back.
Dr. Forrest’s investment vehicle Tattarang owned 18.5% of Huon and threatened to vote against the deal, but ended up backing the $3.85 per share offer.
Tattarang had been highly critical of JBS, leading a campaign demanding that he commit to higher animal welfare standards across the world, including a ‘no pain, no fear’ approach when from the slaughter of animals to the processing stage.
JBS said it unequivocally supports the principles of ‘no pain, no fear’ and is committed to the highest standards of fish health and sustainable farming practices.
Environmental groups have accused Tasmania’s large-scale salmon farmers of polluting waterways with effluent from salmon pens.
JBS has appointed Philip Wiese as managing director of Huon. He has been with the company for almost 14 years.
Mr Wiese said closures in the restaurant and hospitality industry on Australia’s east coast had hit the restaurant side of the business hard, but it was already picking up with the opening of savings.
Retail sales remain robust after a strong spike during the pandemic as at-home consumption increased for food producers.
He said consumer habits are changing. “It’s on the menu for the week,” he said.
It is this change that JBS seeks to exploit on a global scale. Mr Eastwood said the group was looking for other aquaculture opportunities.
Fish farming will be an increasingly important industry for the world. “The oceans are depleting at a horrific rate,” he said.
JBS is already Australia’s largest meat processor and its best-known consumer business is small-products maker Primo Foods.
Huon employs 850 people, bringing the group’s total number of employees in Australia to around 13,000.
The Huon deal is the first foray into the fish industry for JBS anywhere in the world.
Huon was listed on the ASX in October 2014 after being started as a small company by Peter and Frances Bender almost 30 years ago.
Transportation costs doubled last year to $34 million for Huon, with COVID-19-related disruptions accounting for $22 million. Huon makes about two-thirds of its sales in the Australian market.
Industry figures show per capita consumption of salmon in Australia is 2.4 kilograms, with chicken at 46.4 kilograms.