Industry must work together, says NZ sheep boss

Global producers should work together to ensure that sheepmeat has a viable and sustainable future, says the chairman of Meat & Wool New Zealand.

Speaking to MTJ yesterday, Mike Peterson said New Zealand farmers are struggling under the same pressures faced by every sheep-producing country in the world – declining production, poor profitability, tight supply, falling demand and climate change.

“Our farmers’ confidence has been rocked and shattered by declining farmgate prices – poor returns over the past threee years have left farmers shell-shocked,” he said.

“However, food production has to double over by2050 – and there are lots of opportunities around sheepmeat.”

Peterson said that farmers should co-ordinate international efforts to drive up production in Europe. “There are opportunities to join up our campaigns to make sure our message is the same and we build on lamb as a protein for EU markets,” he said.

He added that “other meats” present the biggest challenge in emerging markets, such as Asia, and said that the industry should work together to promote sheepmeat in these regions.

“Asia, particularly China, is the growth area of the world. The middle class is expected to expand from 10m to 100m by 2020. What other market in the world is looking at a tenfold increase of its middle class?” he said.

Peterson stressed that a World Trade Organisation (WTO) multilateral trade agreement is essential to kick-start the global economy.

“We remain firmly committed to the view that a successful multilateral trade agreement through Doha is the best option for the world economy,” he said. “The EU sees the WTO as a threat, but not much would change. There would not be a flood of NZ lamb onto the market.”

He concluded by pointing out that it is essential for global producers to work together to combat climate change and the negative perceptions being pushed by anti-meat organisations.

“We need to develop a global research network to find the best ways to mitigate livestock emissions,” he said. “As a meat sector, we also need to work with global policy-makers on the issue of food security and ensure they know what would happen if blanket controls on meat were imposed in a bid to tackle climate change.”

Peterson was in the UK following the recent International Sheepmeat Forum, which was held in Brussels. “The forum was the first time ever that international sheepmeat organisations have come together and it was very positive,” he said. “It demonstrated that farming leaders are aware of the need to work together to guarantee the future of sheepmeat.”

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