26 May 2015

Meat reform group frustrated by 'status quo'

2:01 pm on 26 May 2015

A farmer group campaigning to reform the meat industry says it is finding it a frustrating process.

It is trying to pushing changes which it sees as essential to the red meat sector's future.

John McCarthy.

John McCarthy. Photo: SUPPLIED

Chair of Meat Industry Excellence, John McCarthy, outlined the sorts of obstacles the group is facing, when he spoke at the Primary Industry Summit it Wellington yesterday.

MIE is advocating merging the two big co-operatives, Silver Fern Farms and the Alliance Group, as a starting point in restructuring, a move which a report calculates would produce gains of more than $400 million over five years.

However, Mr McCarthy told the summit that MIE had had legal threats made against it, and it was running into a brick wall with the meat industry establishment .

"The doors of the status quo are firmly closed to MIE, and I find that incredible. I mean, what is wrong with trying to reform and revitalise New Zealand's second biggest export earner for the benefit, not just of of farmers, but for all New Zealand?

"What is wrong with actually trying to save rural communities and that's really what we're all about. We're a grass-roots movement. We have no political agendas".

While the farmer levy-funded body Beef and Lamb New Zealand provided money for the consultants' report released earlier this year, Mr McCarthy said attempts to get further financial support had fallen on stony ground.

"We've been turned down by AGMARDT (The Agricultural Marketing Research and Development Trust) twice, in terms of our quest for money. We are a group of volunteers who have put in probably 2000 hours over the last two and a half years because we believe in the cause.

"I think the reasoning given to Ross Hyland, our main consultant as to why AGMARDT turned us down was that we were too political. Well, that bemuses me to hell. How can it be political to try and reform the sector?"

He said the group was now excluded from the red meat sector conference funded by farmer levies through Beef and Lamb.

"We have been the only voice in town around red meat sector reform for the last two years. But because we threaten - and that's the only reason I could think of why we would be excluded - because we're offering another pathway, we're shut out of that one."

Mr McCarthy wound up with a message for the primary industries minister.

"Please, you don't have to legislate to help us. Just say there's a real need for reform in this sector. There's a real potential if we do it right. So come on, get up and get behind us," he said.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs