Meat lobby group to decide its fate

Lamb returns may have doubled in the last year, but farming leaders say the need to restructure the meat industry remains.

The Meat Industry Action Group, which last year led the debate to change the industry's structure, will meet in Dunedin tomorrow to discuss its future and its leaders say many farmers had requested it not be disbanded.

Chairman John Gregan said the issues and problems that encouraged the creation of the group remained. The only difference was that cheques farmers had received this season were double what they were last season.

The likelihood of a boom and bust cycle for lamb remained so long as the meat industry had a business plan that maximised the throughput of lambs at the meat works and treated lamb as a commodity, he said.

The fact lamb prices had not fallen this year as other farm commodities had showed him consumers viewed it as a commodity, but the structure of the meat industry needed to change to stop treating it as one.

"We have got a Rolls Royce product and lamb has proven it was not a commodity. Almost every commodity in the world has gone down except lamb," he said.

Mr Gregan owned a sheep and beef farm as well as a dairy farm and said, unlike lamb, 80% of the milk payout was linked to returns for commodities such as milk powder.

A sharp decline in commodity prices was the reason the milk payout fell from $7.90 a kg milk solids last season to a forecast $5.20 kg/ms this season.

Mr Gregan said if the group was to continue it was likely to be less "confrontational" and more conciliatory than it was last year when it tried to force a merger of the co-operatives, Silver Fern Farms and Alliance Group.

"There is a view we tried to railroad the companies and it did not work."

Group executive member Keith Milne said the overwhelming response from members and supporters was for it to remain in some form, but for that to happen, others would have to step up and be involved.

"A lot of people who have been involved are burnt out or they have got other things to do," Mr Milne said.


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