Diverse stakeholding makes change difficult

Meat Industry Excellence has identified $8 a kg for lamb as an aspirational goal. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Meat Industry Excellence has identified $8 a kg for lamb as an aspirational goal. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
New Zealand's red meat industry has a large number of diverse stakeholders.

Attempts to get support from some of them for an industry-wide summit has now failed, which is hardly surprising.

Meat industry talks have already also failed, with what has previously been described as an ''awfully big chunk'' not wanting to discuss industry structure any further.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has made it clear he is not prepared to intervene in private business matters without broad sector support.

Meat Industry Excellence's chairman John McCarthy now says farmers are on their own if they want to ''sort out'' the industry.

But how much can farmers do - apart from the hardy annual of committed supply - when they do not own a majority of the red meat processing and exporting sector? The disparate ownership of the sector, including those that are privately-owned, makes it all very complicated.

As a next step - having shelved the summit idea - MIE says it is ''drilling down on the metrics'' around the opportunities for farmer incomes under a model with scale, stable procurement patterns and in-market co-operation.

Only through farmers' ability to supply can they force a collective change in the industry model, Mr McCarthy says.

MIE's intentions are well-meaning but changing the model when such a diverse range of stakeholders are involved is not so easy.

The only thing that is certain is that if some stability is not brought to the red meat industry, the exodus of suppliers will continue.

It is easy at the moment, when the sector is going through better times - with improved returns for farmers, better balance sheets for companies signalled and constant rhetoric about the demand from China - to take the foot off the pedal.

So Mr McCarthy is right when he says that, despite improved returns, the fundamentals have not changed and that roller-coaster pattern is why MIE exists.

Perhaps stability and sustainability in the industry is what is required.

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