The sheep and beef sector is well-placed to turn the challenges into opportunities and reap the rewards, farmers were told at Beef + Lamb NZ’s Annual Meeting in Gisborne yesterday.
James Parsons, outgoing chair at Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ Ltd) said strong prices and recent trade gains such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) will undoubtedly help lift the profitability of sheep and beef farming.
Despite the progress and achievements, the sheep and beef sector could not afford to be complacent, Parsons said.
“That’s why we are committed to a number of important initiatives such as the Red Meat Story and the New Zealand Farm Assurance Programme, so the sector can capture more value from key markets.
“We are also continuing to invest in supporting farming excellence with our research and development and extension programmes to boost productivity and reduce costs.”
Parsons, who farms in Northland, stepped down this week as B+LNZ chairman after four years in the role and another five years as a director. He was first elected to the board as a farmer director representing the Northern North Island region in 2009. He has been replaced by King Country sheep and beef farmer Martin Coup.
The Government has been constructive in its discussions with the sheep and beef sector since the General Election last year and Parsons encouraged the sector to work closely with them.
“We all agree with the goal of improving water quality, having a lighter environmental footprint and moving further up the value curve. We accept sheep and beef farming has an environmental impact, yet despite this, our sheep and beef farmers are world leaders.
“The Government has set an ambitious target of being carbon neutral by 2050 and the sheep and beef sector has reduced its carbon emissions by 19 percent since 1990 whilst maintaining production. The opportunity is to continually improve and share the innovations we develop in tackling these challenges with other countries, so we make the world a better place.
“With 2.7 million hectares, almost a quarter of New Zealand’s indigenous bush, located on sheep and beef farms, coupled with riparian plantings and exotic woodlots, we are in a strong position.”
B+LNZ’s mission was to ensure future policies do not have unintended consequences for the sheep and beef sector, he said.
“For instance, planting one billion trees should not be at the expense of productive sheep and beef farms and thriving rural communities. There is, however, the opportunity to integrate woodlots into sheep and beef farms using a land use capability approach.”
Parsons also paid tribute to the staff and former and current Board members for their efforts.
“It has been satisfying to see the organisation steadily improving over my nine years on the Board and credit needs to go to all those that have made that happen including the Farmer Council, management and both current and previous board members.”
More emphasis on the environment
Farmers attending the AGM received an update on the organisation’s strategy, draft environment strategy and the Red Meat Story.
Sam McIvor, B+LNZ chief executive, said the organisation’s strategy puts more emphasis on enhancing farmers’ environmental position, unlocking market potential and greater government and public engagement, while still supporting farming excellence.
“Our draft environment strategy is the first step in our quest to return the hero status back to farmers, so they are valued by the wider community. It is focused on four key areas: improving water quality, advancing towards carbon neutral, enhancing our biodiversity and ensuring healthy productive soils.
“The aim is to give farmers the tools and information, so they have confidence to make decisions that will have the greatest environmental impact for a profitable future.”
Red Meat Story to roll out globally later this year
Subject to discussions with the sector, the Red Meat Story is expected to be rolled out to global markets later this year in partnership with processors. B+LNZ is currently finalising the proposed brand mark, story and Go-to-Market Strategy.
“New Zealand’s red meat story is more than a brand,” said McIvor .“It is about ensuring we understand what is important to our consumers; that we protect our natural food production systems; and are doing more to ensure consumers globally recognise New Zealand farmers are in the natural food business.
“To support this, B+LNZ will continue to work on the New Zealand Farm Assurance Programme, undertake on-going in-depth analysis of the consumer and markets and look to the future to identify new opportunities and challenges.
“All of these things are absolutely necessary to ensure the success of our ultimate objective of raising the value of New Zealand’s sheep and beef exports.
“Farmers will also see B+LNZ taking stronger action on other emerging issues that could affect the sheep and beef sector. Our recent world-leading work on alternative proteins is one such example.
“We are determined to be at the forefront of issues on farmers’ behalf. Farmers rightly want to see value from their investment, so we are committed to ensuring our activities have a tangible impact on farmers’ bottom-lines.”
McIvor said Parsons had made a significant contribution to the sector over the past nine years.
“His wise stewardship of B+LNZ and championing the interests of farmers have been invaluable.”
Gore farmer and Southern South Island director and deputy chair Andrew Morrison is shortly expected to assume the B+LNZ chair role.