B+LNZ chair to meet with European sheep producers

Mike Petersen, B+LNZ Ltd chairman.Beef + Lamb New Zealand chairman Mike Petersen left for Europe last night for a series of meetings with local sheep producers, who share New Zealand sheep farmer frustrations with low lamb prices.

Petersen visits the important European market every year to maintain an open dialogue with farmers and farming organisations. The focus of this trip is to ensure better understanding of the flow of product from New Zealand, which has returned to normal after a lower volume last year.

Adverse weather and disease outbreaks in the UK this year have led to higher costs and later domestic production than usual. This has been compounded by an early Easter, coinciding with the traditional pattern of sheepmeat arriving in Europe from New Zealand and other exporting countries. The frustrations expressed by farmer unions and B+LNZ’s counterpart organisations have been widely reported in the media in recent weeks.

“New Zealand sheep farmers, like our European counterparts, are struggling with unsustainable returns for lamb. We agree that stronger prices are needed to restore confidence and enable all sheep producers to take advantage of future opportunities for our quality sheepmeat products.”

Petersen says meetings with key farming leaders and politicians aim to dispel the myth that imported lamb is the reason for depressed market prices in the current season. There will also be discussions on strategies to address common issues and to improve farmer returns.

“It’s generally acknowledged that a strong global sheepmeat industry is good for us all – whether we’re in New Zealand or Europe. Importantly, production in Europe and New Zealand is complementary and ensures that lamb is available year round for consumers in this large and important sheepmeat market.”

In the coming week, Petersen will meet with the chairmen of the UK-based Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX), the National Farmers Union, UK meat importers, and InterBev (France’s Meat and Livestock Association) as well as a number of agricultural officials in Brussels.

He says: “I’ll be hoping to build on the collaborative initiatives that we have worked on with these organisations in recent years – like attracting and retaining new people to the industry, lifting on-farm performance and improving farmer returns.”

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