Kiwi sheep and beef farmers and French counterparts share common ground

New Zealand and French livestock farmers face many similar challenges, says Beef + Lamb New Zealand Ltd (B+LNZ), following a visit here by French livestock sector leaders.

Scott Champion“Farmers in France have a lot in common with Kiwi farmers – they are dealing with many of the same sorts of issues that sheep and beef farmers come up against here. The more we share perspectives on those issues, the better that we’re able to understand each other,” says B+LNZ chief executive Dr Scott Champion.

Supporting the sheep and beef sector’s market opportunities is a major priority for B+LNZ – including in high-value markets like France, where New Zealand has a stable and long-established trading relationship. New Zealand exported around $135 million of sheepmeat to France in 2014, more than half of which was chilled product.

“We send top-quality products to Europe where there is considerable demand for what we have to offer. Working with French farmer organisations to make sure that the trade continues in a sustainable and complementary way is a key focus for us,” says Dr Champion.

“We also have a longstanding relationship with Interbev [B+LNZ’s counterpart organisation in France, representing sheep and beef farmers, processors and retailers]. We meet with them when we are in Europe, and they’ve been coming to New Zealand for many years now.”

The most recent of these, a week-long visit to New Zealand in mid-April, saw discussions take place between Dr Champion and Interbev president Dominique Langlois, who was accompanied by Interbev’s bovine sector president Guy Hermouet and executive director Marc Pages.

Major topics included global demand trends for beef and sheepmeat, the differences between New Zealand and French farming practices, and the way that farmers in the two countries are dealing with environmental issues, including environment-focused regulations.

“Grass-fed, free range, low input sheep and beef production systems have an important part to play in meeting global food demand. These discussions with Interbev confirmed our shared view that environmental issues around food production need to be considered holistically” says Dr Champion.

B+LNZ works with the French agricultural sector as part of an international consortium developing rules for the accurate assessment of the environmental impact of meat production. B+LNZ also works with the French industry to develop a common method of measuring the carbon emissions from sheepmeat production, guidance which was recently incorporated into UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) guidelines.

A further topic of discussion was the jointly-organised World Young Shepherds Challenge which took place most recently in France in October 2014.

During the visit, B+LNZ also raised its goal of improving New Zealand’s market access for beef into the EU market. While New Zealand has excellent access for sheepmeat into the EU, its access for beef is more limited due to the much smaller quotas that apply to that trade.

“A New Zealand – EU Economic Partnership Agreement negotiation is something that we’re obviously very keen to see get off the ground – it would help us to improve on our current beef market access conditions. Ensuring that our French counterparts are aware of our thinking and understand where we’re coming from on that is really important,” Dr Champion said.

Supplied by B+LNZ Ltd.

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