John Loughlin was about to attend his first Red Meat Sector Conference in his capacity as chairman of the Meat Industry Association (MIA), when Allan Barber contacted him to find out what he sees as the major priorities for the organisation after his first two months in the role.
The MIA takes a unique non-partisan view of the meat industry because it represents all its member companies, with no single company or group more important than any others. It is also only empowered to involve itself in those issues that can be represented on an industry-wide basis which places it in a position of privilege, although also occasionally one of relief or frustration.
Loughlin has plenty of industry experience having worked for Richmond Meats as finance manager and chief executive for nine years between 1993 and 2002 as well as serving as director and chair of several other agricultural companies, including Zespri and Tru-Test. He is the ideal person to lead the MIA through a challenging time in the meat industry’s evolution.
When I first spoke to him in May shortly after taking up the role, he stated his major priorities as trade and market access, food safety and health and safety in the processing sector. These remain priorities, but industry cohesion is a further area where he believes 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 MPI, MFAT and most importantly Beef + Lamb New Zealand.
Trade negotiations and market access together are one area that is critical to the fortunes of producers and processors alike. Loughlin believes MIA can do more with Beef + Lamb NZ (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 (FTAs), which places great emphasis on the importance of MIA’s role in resolving these obstacles on behalf of all its members and their suppliers.
Food safety standards in the industry are generally good, although in his view improvements in inspection processes and cost structures are still possible which is an issue that MIA will pursue with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). Biosecurity is the other aspect of MPI’s responsibility with which the red meat sector as a whole needs to engage. The question of entering into a Government Industry Agreement on cost sharing for biosecurity must be addressed and this is an area which will involve cooperation between MIA and B+LNZ. Although a GIA carries risks, other sectors like the kiwifruit industry have already signed them and, in Loughlin’s words, “you can have no influence, if you aren’t at the table”.
John Loughlin’s vision for the red meat sector is for improved returns through better market access to the world’s premium customers. He is determined his time as chairman of the MIA will contribute positively to the achievement of this vision.
This article appeared in Food NZ magazine (August/September 2016) and is reproduced here with permission.