Call to arms for Farmer Army

Last updated 06:39 05/08/2014
Meat Industry Excellence group chairman John McCarthy
Fairfax NZ
FOCUS: Meat Industry Excellence group chairman John McCarthy says their focus is around adding value and cutting cost.

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The meat industry needs a "Farmer Army" to resolve the issues holding it back, says Meat Industry Excellence chairman John McCarthy.

This year will be make or break for the reform group, McCarthy said in his annual address to the group's conference in Wellington.

He confirmed that, after a rigorous process, Beef+Lamb NZ chairman James Parsons and he had signed off on a "grunty and robust business plan" that had the potential to deliver a definitive road map for farmer profitability.

"We will give farmers the road map for reform through the credible and substantiated findings of our business plan," he said.

"We will identify the size of the prize. We will seek farmer support.

"At the end of the day we, the farmers, will get what we wish for, we will get the future we deserve."

McCarthy said all farmers knew the meat industry had to change.

Despite overwhelming support for reform of the current industry model, he said the biggest opposition had, understandably, come from within the industry.

"It is a fact that if we get our way there will be attrition, especially at board and senior management level," he said.

"Our focus is around adding value and cutting cost.

"It makes no sense to have a number of chief executives when one will do the trick.

"Less is more if we are to genuinely address the structural problems endemic in this industry."

McCarthy said it was no accident the themes of this year's Red Meat Sector Conference were aligned around MIE themes or equally the increase in good news stories around the red meat sector.

"The fact is that we pose a reputational threat to all those sector participants who have staked their careers and in some cases their life's work on the preservation of the status quo," McCarthy said.

"In my view it is the wrong path; the status quo is in fact a slippery slope and more of the same will not reverse that trend."

McCarthy thanked grassroots farmers for their faith and support of the reform group to date.

"It is a responsibility we do not take lightly," he said.

"We will not let you down, we will not fudge the facts and we will be guided by your support." .

They could remain essentially as suppliers of raw commodities, or wage slaves, to the rest of the industry or they could take control of their futures by getting behind the co-operative model to drive the synergies and opportunities around scale and size.

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"What is needed, if we are to truly address the structural issues holding us back is a Farmer Army.

"Let the battle begin."

-NZ Farmer

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