Looking ahead at the sector’s 2019 National Lamb Day later this month (24 May), it struck me that the sector has much to celebrate around the table. A lot has happened since that first shipment of New Zealand sheepmeat in 1882, but the sector is most definitely moving on, though not without challenges.
Once the only market for New Zealand’s sheepmeat, 137 years later the UK was amongst around 120 markets and accounted for just 12 percent of exports by both value and volume at the December 2018 year-end, accounting for around $473 million of export revenue. Second only to China now, it is still an important market, however, with close and long-standing ties and the Brexit muddle is causing some uncertainty for business. While the lengthening of the the deadline for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU to 31 October has given the respective governments some breathing space, New Zealand’s red meat sector is watching the situation closely. Maintaining flexibility in the export arrangements, as currently held, and certainty for business are two of exporters’ top requirements.
On trade, it seems the next couple of years will see a few good years ahead for New Zealand red meat exports because of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership and the African Swine Fever outbreak in China that is impacting global meat markets. Statistics later in the year will tell us the direction and value of export flow.
One of the biggest global challenges – climate change – is already most definitely having an impact on all aspects of life here in New Zealand and in all of our markets overseas, including meat production, and came under the spotlight in April at the biennial NZ Agricultural Climate Change Conference in Palmerston North. New Zealand’s red meat farmers have been making real progress in a challenging environment and amidst some very complex, new and emerging science and should get some credit for that, delegates heard. The Interim Climate Change Commission’s report, flagged at that event, has no doubt informed Government’s decisions about future directions, including the new Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill introduced to Parliament yesterday and any changes to the NZ Emissions Trading System (NZ ETS).
The Bill takes a net zero carbon approach for carbon dioxide emissions, which the government believes is the most important thing to tackle, and a split gas approach for methane and nitrous oxide. The Bill will also formally establish the Climate Change Commission, which will review the targets, advise and guide government and set regular five-yearly emissions budgets. However, proposed methane targets set within the Bill – a 10 percent reduction in biological methane emissions by 2030 and a provisional 24-74 percent by 2050 – have caused major concern from meat processors, exporters and farmers as they exceeds requirements, they argue and will be hotly (scuse the pun) debated in coming weeks.
In March, the red meat sector’s scientists and food technologists gathered in Hamilton at the annual workshops to consider the latest advances in their craft. It’s the end of one era – this was the last time the meeting would be held at the AgResearch Ruakura campus, which has seen so much world-leading meat science developed there over the past 64 years. However, it opens up an exciting new chapter and new possibilities ahead for multidisciplinary food research – much broader than meat and co-products, as As AgResearch science impact leader, meat and bio-based products, Dr Cameron Craigie has remarked. “Food science must interact with constantly evolving food production, processing and consumption systems in an ever-changing world.”
Our people are changing too. Personally, I’m really looking forward to the inaugural meeting of New Zealand’s own chapter for Meat Business Women (MBW) in Napier on 29 May. This is going to bring together women from across the supply chain, including farmers, processors, wholesalers, retailers and small goods manufacturers. All with a part to play in shaping the future for the industry. The newly established MBW committee of seven includes Melissa Clark-Reynolds, independent director for Beef + Lamb NZ (B+LNZ) Ltd; Lee-Ann Marsh, market innovation manager B+LNZ Ltd; Brigit Carson, merchandise manager for Foodstuffs North Island; Rebecca Hunink – marketing manager for BX Foods Ltd; Angela Clifford, chief executive of Eat NZ; Nikki Verbeet, commercial manager for NZME and Ashley Gray, general manager B+LNZ Inc. We’ll have more news on that and more in the next few months.
2019 National Lamb Day, celebrating one of our top products, is organised by one of our lovely supporters Beef + Lamb NZ Inc, the domestic promotion body. They remind us that the 5,000 carcases aboard the SS Dunedin arrived in London on 24 May 1882, to coincide with Queen Victoria’s 63rd birthday, after a 98 day journey. They arrived largely in excellent condition, though not without incident, which was no easy feat for the length of the journey in those days. Meat science has helped keep New Zealand at the front of the pack and on dinner plates around the world for 137 years since then!
Kiwis in New Zealand and those around the world can help recognise this and all the other other magnificent achievements. Invite family and friends to come and share some delicious New Zealand Lamb on National Lamb Day!!
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