Farmers support restructuring call

JILL GALLOWAY
Last updated 09:51 27/04/2013
Feilding meat meeting
WARWICK SMITH/Fairfax NZ

MEAT MEETING: Alliance chairman Owen Poole addresses a crowd of North Island farmers at the Civic Centre in Feilding.

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Farmers from throughout the North Island supported calls for the meat industry to be restructured during a meeting in Feilding.

More than 500 farmers packed into the Feilding Civic Centre yesterday to offer support to the Meat Industry Excellence (MIE) group's campaign for industry change.

Campaign organisers say without changes to make the meat industry more profitable, the industry and its supporting rural communities will struggle financially.

Ohakune farmer and businessman John McCarthy, who organised the meeting, said farmers were unable to cope with the fluctuations that saw the lamb price last year of $120, drop to $50 this year.

"If we don't move to change the meat industry now, we're buggered."

He said farmers could not run a business with such fluctuations in income and needed more than one good year in 10 to make such farming viable.

Mr McCarthy said people were concerned about the long-term viability of the meat industry, and that was why farmers had turned up in big numbers to the meetings.

Hundreds of farmers turned to MIE group-organised meetings in Gore and Christchurch this month.

"They're really worried," Mr McCarthy said. "There's real value to be added and farmers aren't seeing that."

MIE chairman Richard Young said: "We need a united voice and it is now vital that farmers show their support for change."

The group was bolstered by the support from farmers in the South Island but dynamics and supply options in the North Island were different, he said.

"We need to address all these issues with farmers in their home patch, this is a New Zealand-wide industry problem it is not simply a co-operative problem and all the major players will need to work together to secure a sustainable and profitable red meat sector."

There was strong support at the meeting for up to 80 per cent of red meat to be processed and marketed by a single company.

Farmers were prepared to commit all their stock to one meat company but they wanted to be rewarded for their loyalty.

A five-person team is to be put together to find changes that would make the meat industry and farmers more profitable.

Last financial year, MIE people estimated that the meat industry had lost about $200 million.

Mr McCarthy said he had spoken to the Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy about the issue.

The minister said he was prepared to open his door to any proposals, but Mr McCarthy suggested he might also need to open his wallet.

Labour's spokesman for Primary Industries, Damien O'Connor said Mr Guy needed to be more proactive than just waiting for proposals on restructuring the meat industry to come to him.

Planning for further North Island meetings in Gisborne and Te Kuiti next month is under way.

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