Big crowd expected to attend meeting

TIM CRONSHAW
Last updated 09:58 12/04/2013

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Another large turnout mirroring the first Gore gathering of 1000 farmers is expected at a Christchurch meeting to get better returns for the red meat industry.

The new Meat Industry Excellence (MIE) group wants farmers to give them the mandate to improve the industry's structure.

Its leaders sense the mood is ready for change and will gauge this at the Christchurch meeting at Wigram Aviation Museum in Christchurch on April 17.

Canterbury spokesman Blair Gallagher said the group had invited everyone in the red meat industry to the meeting to find a better future.

The industry was in limbo and could not keep going in its current state, he said.

"We are expecting a big crowd because of the state of the red meat industry. It's very easy to point the finger at the meat companies and I think there is a need for rationalisation, but we are trying to get a change of farmer mindset to commit to one entity . . . on a contracted basis. We want to work with the meat companies, not against them and there has to be a tradeoff for both sides."

Farmer Mike Morrow will lead the meeting with speakers including MIE's Fiona Hancox, Massey University professor Hamish Gow, New Zealand Merino Company chief executive John Brakenridge. Lincoln University professor Keith Woodford and MIE chairman Richard Young.

"There has to be rationalisation in the industry and it's a matter of what it is and a cost to be picked up by all players," said Gallagher, a Mt Somers farmer at Rangiatea farm. "It's not simple, but we have to get a mandate for change and that is what these meetings are about."

A further meeting is to be scheduled in the North Island.

Gallagher said lamb prices were likely to improve within the next year because so much stock had been killed over the drought, but this would only be a short-term solution.

"Farmers might get a better return, but actually nothing will have changed and it would have been for all the wrong reasons and procurement driven and not structurally driven."

Gallagher said he would like to see the figures for the estimate by Alliance Group chairman Owen Poole of the $600 million cost of rationalisation.

Farmers probably recognised the existing structure was not working and needed their investment for change, he said.

The group is pushing for up to 80 per cent of red meat processing and marketing to be held by a coalition of willing companies.

The major meat companies have received invitations to attend the Christchurch meeting.

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