Meat group 'shifting gears'

Meat Industry Excellence (MIE) says it is ''shifting the gears of reform'' in the red meat sector following recent meetings with industry leaders.

The group met Beef and Lamb New Zealand chairman Mike Petersen, Federated Farmers' meat and fibre executive, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Labour primary industries spokesman Damien O'Connor.

There was recognition and support among farmers for a ''truly sustainable'' red meat sector, MIE chairman Richard Young said.

''MIE sees its role as shifting the gear for reform out of neutral. For an industry bedevilled by past in-fighting, it is great to know that Federated Farmers and Beef and Lamb NZ want to work with us,'' he said.

The group provided Mr Guy with an update on its progress since the completion last month of five MIE meetings throughout the country.

MIE had also refined its six objectives and developed a new mission statement which stemmed directly from the meetings involving more than 3000 farmers.

Its mission statement was to ''reform the New Zealand meat industry to become the world's premium supplier of red meat through a united processing and marketing structure controlled by suppliers''.

The biggest change in its objectives was its first objective - establishing a farmer-controlled entity to acquire sufficient critical mass to optimise market returns for its stakeolders. Previously, up to 80% of red meat was processed and marketed by a ''coalition of the willing''. The other objectives were. -

• The new structure will recruit the best personnel and implement best practice and strategies.

• Commitment of stock to specification will underpin the new structure.

• Any required legislation to support the new structure will be sought.

• All stakeholders in the red meat sector to share the cost of restructuring.

• All suppliers will be treated fairly and with full transparency.

The group was in the process of formalising its ''tight five'' to help drive industry change, Mr Young said.

• The meat companies were continuing their discussions and MIE would be ''keeping the pressure on''. It wanted an inclusive approach to the industry. The organisations it met were all hoping the companies would ''come out with something'' and, in the meantime, MIE was ''boxing along'' with its plans, Mr Young said.

A series of ''key announcements'' from MIE were expected over the next three weeks, he said.

Federated Farmers meat and fibre chairwoman Jeanette Maxwell said MIE and the meat and fibre executive had a ''highly constructive'' conversation on meat industry issues and many areas of alignment emerged.

The future of the meat sector would be a ''big point of discussion'' at the rural lobby group's national meat and fibre conference in Ashburton next month. The panellists were former PPCS (now Silver Fern Farms) chairman Reese Hart, Doug Leeder on what it took to get Fonterra, Massey University agribusiness professor Hamish Gow and Michelle Shields on behaviour. There would also be an update from MIE, Mrs Maxwell said.

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