Wednesday, 19 June 2024 10:55

Gong for Waikato farming leader

Written by  Peter Burke
Affco chair Sam Lewis was surprised and delighted at being made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit. Affco chair Sam Lewis was surprised and delighted at being made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Waikato farming leader Sam Lewis says he’s surprised and delighted at being made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to business and the community in the latest King’s Birthday Honours list.

He says there was small family celebration which also doubled as celebration for his upcoming 80th birthday.

Lewis has been chairman of the meat processing company Affco since 1999 and has been a director since 1990. He has seen the company transition from a farmer co-operative, which started back in 1905, to the fully commercial company that it is today.

For over 40 years, Lewis has been a drystock farmer, but in recent times moved closer to Te Awamutu and is now running the drystock operation for his dairy farmer son Chris Lewis, who is a director of DairyNZ.

Sam Lewis was the treasurer at Waikato Federated Farmers in the late 1970s and early 80s and it was in this role that he began mentoring farmers who were going through hard times.

“Remember, the country was undergoing the big reforms in those days, there was no Rural Support Trust.

“So people came to Waikato Feds and I was involved with helping a lot of people that the Rural Support Trust deals with now,” he says.

Lewis says in those days farmers were often reluctant to seek outside help, but this has changed and mental health problems are now treated more openly than they were in the 1980s.

He says the current downturn is caused by several well-known factors such as high interest rates and low export returns. Lewis says the interest rates are a consequence of government dealing with Covid-19.

“Every country in the world did the same thing, so consumer demand has gone down worldwide and that has affected lamb prices because it is a higher priced item.

“Lamb, milk and beef are also affected by the slowdown in the Chinese economy and the word is that it could be early next year before this will improve,” he says.

Lewis says until this happens farmers have just got to buckle down, be confident in themselves and have a simple plan to get them through until things improve.

He says simple plans work well and complicated ones often don’t. He says things will come right but, in the meantime, farmers have to control their costs.

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