Another doorstop?

by david on March 4, 2015

Will the latest report into the red meat sector by  the MIE Group prove to be anything but another doorstop? Will the latest report into the red meat sector by the MIE Group prove to be anything but another doorstop?

THE MEAT Industry Excellence Group’s (MIE) much-vaunted and so far highly secretive report into meat sector reforms is due to be released later this month.

No one can accuse MIE and its supporters of lacking passion or determination, and their initial efforts in rousing farmer support and getting endorsed candidates onto the boards of Alliance Group and Silver Fern Farm is commendable.

However, passion and understanding aside, this knotty question remains: given all the huffing and puffing by MIE, what real and tangible reforms will it actually achieve? The reality is that getting a couple of directors onto meat co-ops’ boards, and increasing voter turnout among apathetic suppliers is nice – but it doesn’t mean much.

Not long ago MIE’s predecessor ginger group MIAG (Meat Industry Action Group) was calling for similar meat sector reforms and even got a number of endorsed candidates onto the boards of Alliance and SFF.

And what happened? MIAG’s leader gave up and went dairy farming, while its meat company directors either retired or got voted off the boards and nothing has changed in the ensuing years!

MIE claims it has… “strong farmer support for a new processing and marketing co-operative with much greater scale…. There is clearly a groundswell and we need to get on with it.”

But will this ‘groundswell’ translate into actual support forMIE’s recommendations for reform when they are finally published? Especially when it requires farmers to dig into their own pockets to pay for industry consolidation (read plant closedown) and reduces their opportunity to shop around?

And how will farmers feel about the lack of capacity in the industry when they are desperate to get stock killed in a dry year?

No doubt all will be revealed when the MIE report is published.

While admiration for the group’s efforts and work are one thing, one gets the uneasy feeling that this latest effort at meat sector reforms will just turn out to be another doorstop – with a $200,000 price tag.

It would be good to be proven wrong, but the history of the New Zealand meat industry is littered with good intentions and dozens of ‘change reports’.

Don’t hold your breath.

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