Opportunities and optimism at Red Meat Sector Conference

These articles have appeared in Food NZ magazine (August/September 2013) and are reproduced here with permission.

Red Meat Sector Conference 2013Participants from all parts of the red meat sector met in Auckland in July to hear from a range of speakers and to discuss the sector’s future.

A record number of people attended the Red Meat Sector conference – jointly organised once again by the Meat Industry Association (MIA) and Beef + Lamb NZ Ltd (B+LNZ).

Ahead of the conference, Graham Turley, managing director commercial at ANZ, the principal sponsor of the conference, said that  it came at a “critical moment in the industry’s history.

He pointed to key challenges, which include reversing the trend of the decreasing supply of lambs, lowering production costs and increasing profit, he said. This will require reinvestment across the whole industry and integration of the supply chain so farmers are rewarded for supply of the right product at the right time.

“It’s crucial that farmers make a commitment to the supply chain so that the marketers and processors can invest in efficient processing and new markets with confidence to enable higher returns,” said Turley, adding that he had enormous confidence that red meat will be a key part of New Zealand’s economic future, “but a lot of brave decisions and hard work must happen first.”

The 320 delegates were drawn from across the sector, with every meat processing company sending top level representatives. They were joined by farming leaders from throughout New Zealand, scientists, bankers and other companies servicing the sector.

Attendees heard twelve excellent and fact-filled presentations from a wide range of speakers in the tightly packed agenda on the Monday. These showed that the red meat sector isn’t broken and that there are significant opportunities, but also that the sector needs to do more to promote itself. The speakers gave plenty of reasons for optimism about the opportunities for the sector, and also outlined some of the challenges it faces. There was advice and thoughts about collaboration, which is top of mind for the industry right now, measurement of progress against the Red Meat Sector Strategy and how to deal with the volatility which is characteristic of the global red meat industry as noted by MIA chaiman Bill Falconer.

There was a light touch too with Scott Kennedy Beef + Lamb NZ’s ambassador chef introducing the delicious lunch inspired by him and prepared by the Langham’s kitchen team, while the new B+LNZ face for the New Zealand consumer campaign Chelsea Winter talked about her experience as winner of the 2012 Masterchef competition and her on-farm childhood.

Australian media personality and “Lambassador” Sam Kekovich – famous for his Australia Day ‘State of the Nation’ addresses promoting lamb – gave a jolt of hilarity to the Maersk Gala Dinner to finish off the event with a touch of good humour.

Conversations emphasised durability and resilience of sector, says Maersk boss

Julian Bevis, Maersk Line NZ.For outgoing Maersk Line New Zealand managing director Julian Bevis, conversations at the Red Meat Sector conference emphasised the durability and resilience of New Zealand’s primary production sector and Kiwi farmers.

“Despite the effects of the droughts here and in the Northern Hemisphere – both the immediate effect on prices and the longer-term effect on farmers forced to cull capital stock to get through the summer – the people I spoke to were very much focused on the future and on how the industry could best unlock its considerable potential,” said Bevis.

Bevis said new opportunities continued to open up around the world, in some cases taking over from more traditional markets. New Zealand companies had the products; they needed to make sure they got the most out of them.

“It’s great to see producers getting their brand names in front of the end consumer, on restaurant menus and the like, at home and abroad. It’s that sort of initiative that helps New Zealand maintain and grow its reputation as a premium producer. Let’s see more of it,” said Bevis.

Bevis, who is soon to move to India to take up a government relations role with the AP Moller Maersk Group, said his regular attendance at the annual conference and similar events reflected the fact that Maersk saw itself as part of the industry.

“Maersk Line and our predecessor companies have been working with New Zealand exporters for close on a century. We are proud of that record of service and committed to maintaining the relationships we have developed during that time.”

Bevis said improved profitability remained the industry’s top priority. This could only be achieved if participants were prepared to take a long-term view.

“The challenge of moving beyond the spot market, of co-operating strategically rather than focusing solely on this week’s transaction, is not just a matter for farmers and processing companies, it is something we all need to think about,” he said.

“It’s important we keep talking to each other. While we each need to fight our corner, we should also remember we have considerable common ground and considerable incentives to develop solutions that advance all our interests.”

Copies of all of the conference presentations are available online at www.mia.co.nz or www.redmeatsector.co.nz.  


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