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Farmers must keep the pedal to the metal

Farmers must keep the pedal to the metal on industry change

Friday the 14th might not sound like an ominous day but for the meat industry it was a pivotal point.

Farmer shareholders in Alliance Group sent a strong message for change by voting in two new directors and supporting a remit for better communication with suppliers and increased strategic planning.

MIAG Chairman Keith Milne said that adversity can present unprecedented opportunities for change but that farmers must be the ones to initiate structural change that will give sheep farming a sustainable future.

“It's unfortunate that the Alliance elections have caused some polarisation of views but we must accept the outcome, find consensus and get on with the job.

“Most farmers would agree that the fragmented and overly competitive nature of the meat industry has led us to the predicament we now face. In the past, people have taken a narrow view with undue emphasis on their sector, company or particular vested interest.”

Mr Milne said “we must all move above this and take a pan-industry approach. I believe that there is now an increased willingness for all parties to work together in a more co-operative and co-ordinated way.”

It is essential that Meat & Wool NZ show more leadership and be proactive in facilitating consensus and change, even if this requires them to step outside the 2003 mandate and/or use or leverage against some of our crisis reserves.

With this, and other initiatives in mind, Mr Milne and MIAG Vice-Chairman John Gregan met with Mike Peterson (M&W Chairman), in Christchurch on Tuesday (18 December).

MIAG along with other groups have called for an industry summit.

“We don't see this as another talk-fest, but would expect industry players to enter with an open mind and a willingness to change. We see it as critical to involve key people from outside the meat industry with expertise in marketing and industry structure.”

MIAG will endorse quality candidates for the upcoming PPCS elections in February and also the M&W elections in March. Members of the group think it is healthy for director elections to be contested as it gives shareholders the opportunity to debate issues and influence the future direction of their company and industry.

The action group is also calling for the development of a meat industry-wide strategic plan and supports calls by North-Canterbury and North Island farmers to influence private companies by controlling stock supply.

“This will be particularly effective when we come to the end of the current massive capital stock kill. If all farmers united, we could force companies to co-operate for whole industry good.”

Since the formation of MIAG, we have promoted the concept of an independent marketing company which is open to all exporters and which would give separation of procurement and processing from marketing. There are indications that several companies would be prepared to consider this marketing vehicle.

“Again we see M&W's involvement as crucial in facilitating consensus. Interestingly, the Wool Industry Network, after in depth investigation, have put forward a similar proposal to return more value to the grower from crossbred wool. We would encourage all sheep farmers, particularly strong wool growers, to carefully consider and support the Mandate for Change produced by WIN.

“To quote Model for Change: ‘In nearly all cases where there has been successful market re-positioning of product from the New Zealand rural sector, the genesis has been producer unification’.”

ENDS

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