MIA chef executive Sirma Karapeeva says the new Red Meat Sector Strategy is not radically different from the 2011 version and terms it “a renewal of the vows rather than a new marriage.” B+LNZ lead Nick Beeby agrees the whole purpose is to refresh the previous strategy by taking stock of achievements and charting a new path in a changed world. Although some of the sector’s challenges have remained as they were nine years ago, much has changed and demands a fresh approach. The global trade environment is dramatically different today while consumer preferences, post-Covid distribution platforms and a growing trend towards agricultural activism place greater emphasis on analysis, environmental awareness and flexibility.
The main point MIA and B+LNZ agree on is the importance of both sides of the meat industry collaborating to ensure alignment of objectives to the overall benefit of the sector. In total contrast to 10 years ago, the parties now recognise the challenges and opportunities are greater than a single company or organisation can address and are now completely aligned on the priorities to be addressed.
Over the last 50 years the red meat sector has come in for plenty of criticism, much of it justified, while farmers and processors battled for individual survival in the face of massive challenges: Great Britain’s membership of the EU, the removal of subsidies, farm receiverships, a dramatically reducing sheep flock, incessant land use change, decline of wool prices, continuously changing consumer tastes, droughts and floods, and more recently a raft of new regulations.
During the same period farmer representative bodies have at times struggled to identify what their members expect and require of them, while industry organisations like the MIA are only as effective as their members want and allow them to be. This latest RMS strategy indicates firmly B+LNZ and MIA, representing both sides of the farm gate, are fully aligned in their objectives, while B+LNZ’s own strategy will flow from the sector strategy and will inform the referendum proposition to be presented to levy payers next year.
Beeby is adamant, if the sector is to be successful, it cannot be about behind or in front of the farm gate, but must be a total partnership. He refers with enthusiasm to the joint work on the NZ Farm Assurance Programme which recently agreed the work programme for the next five years, while Taste Pure Nature and Red Meat Profit Partnership are two more examples of collaboration between the two organisations.
The RMS document subtitled Growing Sustainable Value Together talks of providing a platform of shared aspirations with other partners including the dairy sector, Maori, other primary sectors and the New Zealand government. The sector’s value to the economy is demonstrated by the 92,000 people it employs directly and indirectly, its status as the country’s second highest exporter selling over $9 billion of products to 120 countries, 98% of which is value added, and the importance to the total of product subsets such as halal certified processing and co-products.
The strategy sets four 10 year goals – to achieve sustainable profitability and premium value, to support vibrant communities and be seen as trusted guardians of the sector’s integrity and reputation for caring for its land, water and animals – and three specific priorities for 2025 relating to market position, innovation and sustainability. The most noteworthy aspect of these goals and priorities is the clear identification of whose responsibility each activity is, either joint or individual, whereas in the past true accountability would have been more difficult to pin down. To assist the process of achieving the priorities within the five year timeframe, there are clearly stated objectives to be completed by 2022, each with concise measurement criteria.
The three priorities are closely linked and none is achievable on its own. Market position incorporates market access, farm assurance, product differentiation, attributes and benefits, seeking to build collectively on New Zealand’s reputation for healthy grass fed lean red meat, its production systems, animal welfare and science-backed nutritional benefits. Innovation captures developments of the farms, processing plants and products of the future, all of which will be supported by enhanced data integration and analysis, and eventually full farm to fork traceability. All this work will be underpinned by the three pillars of economic, social and environmental sustainability.
Key aspects of sustainability include attracting skilled and adaptable people across the agricultural value chain, strengthening the sector’s reputation with the New Zealand public, improving environmental performance to achieve the targets committed to in He Waka Eke Noa, contributing to world class biosecurity protection systems, and improving lifetime animal care through high welfare standards and scientific research into animal health.
The impressive thing about RMS 2020 is the amount of work underway already which makes achieving many of the stated outcomes more likely. Beeby draws attention to the importance of what are termed ‘enablers’ in the strategy document. There are seven enablers which are collaboration, future insights, food safety, data connectivity, comprehensive science and evidence, skills and capability development, and open markets. The first of these should be readily available, although food safety requires careful attention at all times. The last two appear more uncertain – open markets have been a growing feature of world trade for 30 years, but have come under threat in the last couple of years, while skills and capability development remains a major problem.
Quite simply there aren’t enough New Zealanders willing to study the relevant disciplines, nor can we expect to be able to import people to make up the shortfall, whether because of Covid-19 or government policy.
This sector strategy is clear, concise and achievable. The sector can move into the next five years with confidence its leaders have correctly defined the issues and goals that will guarantee success.
Current schedule and saleyard prices are available in the right-hand menu of the Rural section of this website. This article was first published at Farmers Weekly and is here with permission.