New Zealand’s largest meat producers’ cooperative Silver Fern Farms and the Federation of Māori Authorities are joining forces to provide further opportunity and benefit to Māori dry stock farmers, who make up a large proportion of the Federation’s membership base.
The relationship has been forming for some time and has been consummated by a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the respective chief executives of the two organisations in Tauranga yesterday. This will see Silver Fern Farms become a key sponsor of the Federation’s annual conference and its key primary sector fora.
Federation chief executive TeHoripo Karaitiana is excited about the opportunities this will present to its farming members, many of whom are already part of the Silver Fern Farms whanau.
“We have agreed to work on initiatives that will deliver real, measurable benefit to those members who wish to participate,” he said. “That doesn’t require them to change their allegiances to other processors but will at least provide them with the opportunity to come to some understanding of the sustainable practices that are driving the Silver Fern Farms business model and building greater resilience in their co-operative base.”
The joint plan that the two parties have committed to initially will focus on:
- Developing farm systems (through FarmIQ)
- Leveraging collective scale
- Leveraging collective influence
- Developing the capacity and capability of people and communities
“We will be working on the detail of these initiatives and advising our membership base about the opportunities they will have to participate,” Karaitiana said. “We will make this as inclusive as possible.”
There are approximately 950,000 hectares of productive rural land in Māori hands, two-thirds of it in pasture supporting dry stock operations. Almost 90 percent of that land is under the governance of 363 mostly Ahu Whenua trusts or incorporations which either are members of the Federation or are eligible to be.
These entities represent the core of the Māori agri-business sector that has lifted its performance noticeably over the past five years. They have been significant benefactors of the commodity boom that has been a key contributor to the growth in the New Zealand economy over recent years.
Silver Fern Farms acknowledges the Māori contribution to this uplift and also that Māori farmers take a long-term, inter-generational view that makes them reliable and durable development partners. That inter-generational view is something they have in common with very many of the Silver Fern Farms’ whanau, and sustainable farming is a guiding belief for the company according to Silver Fern Farms chief executive Keith Cooper.
“There are strong synergies between us. We are proudly ‘100% Made of New Zealand’ and this partnership will strengthen that belief, as it will our belief in sustainable farming,” Cooper said.
“We see a great opportunity to weave the rich Māori heritage into our branding on premium products to create value with high-end global customers.”
“This collaboration has a strong focus on people. We will develop skills in order to grow the productive capability of Māori Authority farm businesses. There will be good mutual benefit from an increased supply of livestock to the sector, and by the integration of information from plate to pasture, through FarmIQ.”
The Federation in turn acknowledges the solid platform that the Silver Fern Farms provides through its scale and the opportunity it presents through its horizontal integration and its reach in to growing off-shore markets.
“We have focused very hard for some years now on optimising production and quality to the farm gate,” Karaitiana said. “Silver Fern Farms provide a safe passage further along the value chain for those Māori farmers that wish to develop a greater understanding with a view to becoming more active in this area.”
Silver Fern Farms is NZ’s leading procurer, processor and marketer of lamb, beef and venison, producing 30 percent of these meat products annually. It represents more than 16,000 sheep, beef and venison farmers, and employs 7,000 people at the peak of production at its 22 sites around the country. Its annual turnover is approximately $2.2 billion.
The Federation, the leading Māori business network that recently celebrated its 25-year anniversary, has over 100 members with assets worth in the vicinity of $7 billion. Its reason for being is to help its members prosper and grow.
The two parties are committed to “building our industry in our country”, and will do this in ways that are sustainable and help grow people and build communities, the MoU states: “It makes sense that we work together; we each have a national legacy, the courage to create history and work for the collective good – and to work to a long-term time horizon.”
Material supplied by Silver Fern Farms.