The red meat sector gathered for the sixth time at its annual Red Meat Sector Conference, held in late July in Auckland and organised by the Meat Industry Association (MIA) and Beef + Lamb NZ (B+LNZ), to draw inspiration and challenges from speakers and colleagues.
Three Ministers were among the 14 speakers, over 200 delegates, 10 trade stands and support from 16 sponsors at this year’s conference, which worked well to show a united front and dynamic face for the New Zealand red meat industry.
Welcoming delegates to the conference, new MIA chairman John Loughlin commented that he sees industry cohesion as an area where the MIA can play an important role. MIA does not take the lead in all priority areas, but works beside and in support of other representative bodies like the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and, most importantly, B+LNZ, he explained. Loughlin believes MIA can do more with B+LNZ to increase the effectiveness of the red meat sector’s liaison with the government agencies. Meat exports are subject to non-tariff barriers, even in markets with which New Zealand has free trade agreements, which places great emphasis in resolving these obstacles on behalf of all of its members and their suppliers (See here), he said.
It was a return visit for the sector’s major conference to the Langham Hotel in Auckland, the last time was in 2013. This time over 200 delegates, including red meat processors and exporters, researchers, service companies, farmers and others were drawn to attend the conference designed to inspire and challenge them. As in previous years, the conference was built on the core themes of the Red Meat Sector Strategy (RMSS): coordinated in-market behaviour; aligned procurement; and adoption of best practice.
The majority of delegates first gathered at the Hamburg Sud Welcome Cocktail function on Sunday evening and heard from the Minister for Economic Development, and for Science and Innovation Steven Joyce, who gave the opening address. The Minister emphasised the importance of the red meat sector to the New Zealand economy, and highlighted the Government’s investment in research and development in the sector, noting in particular the high level of the sector’s involvement in the Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) programme,
The task of officially opening business on the Monday morning fell to Minister for Food Safety and Associate Primary Industries Minister, Honourable Jo Goodhew.
She also emphasised the importance of science and innovation for the sector, particularly through the PGP programme and the recently opened Food Safety Science and Research Centre, noting that the benefits from the work being undertaken will likely flow through to the wider economy. She also noted that New Zealand has an excellent global reputation for food safety and that the Government is working internationally to to promote the development and adoption of evidence-based standards to support trade.
The Minister also discussed how increasing consumer demands for safe, high quality food and other aspects of food production such as animal welfare and the origin of products are driving regulatory changes and business practices.
Following the Minister’s opening address, delegates heard from 14 speakers in all, ranged over four sessions: Resistance or Resilience; Sea New Zealand; Trade Win(d)s; and the Global/Local Forecast.
Resistance or resilience?
The first session, chaired by Fred Hellaby, chairman of Auckland Meat Processors, featured three speakers – two of them from two of New Zealand red meat’s major markets – considering whether resistance to change or developing resilience is the best approach to the changing world.
Barb Masters, senior policy advisor at OFW Law Washington, gave a US perspective on the food safety challenges and opportunities for the meat industry from New Zealand’s major beef market. She discussed how the current US political climate is impacting the meat industry, highlighting the role of consumer advocates in driving the agenda in Congress. She also noted that both the presidential candidates have expressed opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). She then discussed some of the challenges facing the US meat industry, including concerns about antibiotic resistance and the focus on sanitary dressing to reduce incidences of E.coli in beef.
On a positive note, she emphasised that in the Us there is a high level of confidence in New Zealand’s food safety systems, and that consumer advocates are more concerned about imports of food from other supplying countries.
Following her presentation, an overview of Chinese meat production and processing was provided by Li Shuilong, executive president of the China Meat Association, the MIA’s counterpart in China.
In a well received presentation, former Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year and inspirational speaker, Ray Avery, also gave his perspective on how he overcame resistance to become resilient. He talked about what lead him to set up the independent agency and charity Medicine Mondiale to focus on creating low cost sustainable solutions combating global poverty and related health issues. He stressed the need for businesses to focus on customer’s needs and to produce products that respond to these needs.
Sea New Zealand
In the Sea New Zealand session, chaired by Kirsten Bryant of B+LNZ, Master of Wine Steve Smith from New Zealand wine company Craggy Range, gave an outsider’s collection of thoughts on storytelling for New Zealand meat. Like Ray Avery, he emphasised the need to focus on the customers, and discussed how Craggy Range has focused on telling stories in order to connect with its customers.
David Ross, chief executive of global freight solutions company Kotahi, then talked about the international shipping scene, and how Kotahi is working with exporters, ports and shipping lines to smooth New Zealand’s export cargo flows. He also emphasised that environmental sustainability is important for New Zealand’s international customers and that, as New Zealand is a long way from most of our markets, exporters here need to demonstrate that they are working to reduce the carbon footprint of their exports.
Sampling trade win(d)s
The high powered Trade Win(d)s session took place after lunch and was chaired by Greenlea Premier Meats Managing Director, Tony Egan. Looking at the New Zealand red meat sector’s trade access prospects was Crawford Falconer, the Sir Graeme Harrison professorial chair in global value chains and trade who spoke on trade priorities beyond the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He discussed the prospects for the TPP and trade prospects in Europe following Brexit.
He also emphasised that in addition to pursuing new agreements, New Zealand needs to put significant resources into consolidating and strengthening its current trade relationships, particularly the relationships with China and Indonesia.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s chief negotiator, deputy secretary trade and economic David Walker, then provided an overview of New Zealand trade agenda. Special agricultural trade envoy, and former B+LNZ chairman, Mike Petersen closed the session in his address ‘Trade and market opportunities for the red meat sector’ before being joined by the previous two speakers for a question and answer panel session.
Where those trade winds might blow the New Zealand red meat business in 2016-2017 was examined in detail by two popular returning speakers in the final session ‘Global/Local Forecast’. European market research company GIRA’s Richard Brown gave his latest analysis on the world meat market and where he thinks New Zealand red meat’s best prospects are in the coming year, including the potential impact of Brexit.
The political world was the realm of Colin James of the Hugo Group. He provided insights into the global political situation and how this is impacting on New Zealand and also provided an overview of the domestic political situation including the prospects for the 2017 and 2020 elections.
The conference closed with guests networking at the pre-dinner drinks leading into the ever popular Maersk Line Gala Dinner on the Monday evening, which featured a speech from Minister for Primary Industries Hon Nathan Guy and entertainment throughout the evening from two of New Zealand’s icons, the Topp Twins.
Copies of presentations will be available in due course at www.redmeatsector.co.nz.
This article appeared in Food NZ magazine (August/September 2016) and is reproduced here with permission.