Sunday, August 14, 2022

SFF ‘a solid vessel for choppy waters’

Nadia Lim says on the world stage NZ farmers are at the top of their game, but inherently Kiwis are not big talkers.

Silver Fern Farms (SFF) chief executive Simon Limmer says a solid vessel will be needed to navigate choppy waters ahead as trade grows challenging.

In his opening address to the multinational meat company’s annual conference in Christchurch this week, he told farmer shareholders that SFF’s partnership with them “is why we are here”.

“If we are not making your business sustainable into the future then we are not sustainable,” Limmer said.

“The way we transact with our shareholders today is much more than in the past.

“We have had a hell of a couple of years, our team is tired, so are you, but in choppy waters we need a solid vessel.

“Our visibility now is our investment for the future, acknowledging what is coming at us, and engaging.

“Trade is challenging, we need options in terms of diversifying the markets we sell into.     

“We want to pay our best farmers the best money but the way ahead is challenging, the water is choppy, covid is still lingering, the supply chain is disrupted and there is a lot of work to do to navigate the markets.

“The way we engage with our shareholders back on the farm is critical.

“Our future slogan statement is ‘Creating goodness from the farms the world needs’. We need to be innovative in finding solutions right back to on farm.

“The goodness is the eating experience, the way people engage with our product. The farms are food-production systems and the farms of today are quite different to the farms of tomorrow.

“The world needs more from us. What we do here in NZ is very different to what the rest of the world is doing and how they are doing it.

“There is scope to grow, to capture more value up the value chain, to think more strategically and take everybody on the journey – creating goodness from the farms the world needs,” Limmer said.        

Keynote speaker Nadia Lim, a nutritionist, farmer and entrepreneur, said New Zealand farming needs to “grab the bull by the horns”.

“What we can absolutely own and show the world is how we grow and raise real food, and educate people on how it’s done,” Lim said.

She said in global terms, NZ has the closest connection between the consumer and the farm.

Lim and her husband Carlos Bagrie run the historic Royalburn Station in Otago, where they practise regenerative and ethical farming focused on sustainable and circular solutions to help the land, animals and food sources thrive.

“It’s about connecting your business to the consumers who are craving to have more of a connection with how their food is produced. Don’t hold back, be honest and truthful. Consumers appreciate that,” said Lim.

“Talking for sheep and beef, as that’s what we are into, on the world stage NZ farmers are at the top of their game, but inherently we are not big talkers … we need to puff out our chest, be proud and tell the full story, be more confident and bring those people who don’t live on the land on a journey, educate them, given them the option to learn.

“They hear the one-liners but there’s so many more moving parts.”

The cost of living will ultimately drive demand for synthetic foods, but Lim said there will always be a market for “real food”.

NZ, being the size it is, will never “play in the big space”, she said, but “we are well placed to play on the top of the stage with real food and real meat”.

However, it will be important to work with nature.

“It should not be the consumer driving it as the consumer is not always right as production is then driven by demand and that is not how nature works.

“The most sensible way to eat is to go back to the land first. What suits the land and the environment to produce is important. Educate the chef and he takes it to the retailer who takes it to the eater.”

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