Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Farmers back plan for consolidation

It was standing room only at the Gore Town and Country Club yesterday as close to 1000 farmers backed a plan to consolidate the bulk of the red-meat industry into a single company.

The meeting was the brainchild of the Meat Industry Excellence Committee, a group of farmers from the lower South Island frustrated at the recent dismal returns for meat and a lack of unity in the industry.

A six-point plan to overhaul the meat-processing scene was laid out by the group, which includes West Otago farmer Allan Richardson and Roxburgh farmer and former ACT MP Gerry Eckhoff.

At the top of their wish-list is a call for a “coalition of the willing” to process and market 80% of all of New Zealand’s red meat.

Eckhoff said farmers would also need to play their part by supplying stock on long-term contracts.

“The competitive destruction that besets our processing industry must not continue, whether it is inside or outside the farmgate.”

Alliance Group chairman Owen Poole, who sat next to his Silver Fern Farms (SFF) counterpart Eion Garden during the meeting, agreed the meat industry needed a better structure.

“It is easy to talk about. It is hard to achieve, because of disparate ownership.”

Poole told the meeting Alliance and SFF were continuing to talk to others in the industry about amalgamation despite an aborted attempt in 2008.

“There may be another way to get the process started that probably isn’t utopia but may help kick it along the way,” he said.

Poole wouldn’t elaborate when asked afterwards about the precise nature of the work being carried out by the two southern co-operatives and which third parties were involved.

Earlier, Landcorp’s chief executive Chris Kelly, ANZ chief economist Cameron Bagrie, and Massey University agricultural economics professor Hamish Gow gave their opinions on the future direction needed for the meat industry.

More meetings are planned in the coming weeks, after which Richardson said the group hoped to have a mandate from farmers around the country to take its plan to the boards of the major meat companies.

Full coverage of the meeting will be in the March 25 edition of Farmers Weekly.

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