27 Mar 2010

Grain grower warns of risk of overseas control

9:13 am on 27 March 2010

A grain grower representative is advising dairy farming counterparts to be wary of overseas investors establishing large scale dairy farming and processing operations here.

Their warning follows the unveiling of plans by the Chinese-owned Natural Dairy NZ Holdings, which is proposing to spend up to $1.5 billion dollars buying New Zealand farms and milk processing facilities.

The investors are still raising funds and are so far focusing only on the more than 20 Crafar family farms, currently in receivership.

The company's aim is to produce long-life milk and baby formula products for the Chinese market, by having control over the complete process from the farm to the consumer.

Mid-Canterbury grain growers' representative David Clark says dairy farmers need to be aware of the risk of losing ownership and control of their industry to foreign interests.

He says the dairy industry, which is enjoying modest profitability, has retained ownership of its marketing and processing capacities.

However the arable industry is in crisis, he says having surrendered marketing and processing to largely overseas-owned corporate interests, and is producing a commodity that is valued by outside forces which buy it as cheaply as they can.

Mr Clark says the same issue of lack of farmer control applies to the wool and meat industries.