Thursday, 04 August 2022 09:55

100 years and still going strong

Written by  Andrew Morrison
NZ Meat Board chair Andrew Morrison. NZ Meat Board chair Andrew Morrison.

OPINION: This year we're marking the centenary of the New Zealand Meat Board (NZMB) and this represents a good opportunity to raise awareness and understanding of the role of the board.

Many farmers I talk to are unaware the NZMB is the custodian of $8.1 million (as of March 2022) in reserves on behalf of sheep and beef farmers. That's understandable. Farmers have a lot of other things to think about and the board's activities are more visible at processor and exporter rather than farmer level.

For the past 100 years, the NZMB has been a foundation stone of one of our country's most valuable export industries - and its work continues to benefit New Zealanders and sheep and beef farmers on a daily basis.

The NZMB was originally established in 1922, after a price collapse severely impacted farmers. Its role has evolved over time as industry, regulatory and consumer requirements have changed and it has played a key role in building and maintaining our strong and successful red meat export industry.

Today, the NZMB has three key work strands. Firstly, it manages quotas into the EU, the UK and the US markets that earn over $2 billion annually for New Zealand's economy. It's a voice for farmers to ensure the best possible results for the red meat industry, with a positive impact on export revenues and on the bottom line for farm businesses.

Secondly, it manages that significant pool of reserves, originating from funds left over from New Zealand's bulk red meat purchase agreement with the UK government during World War Two.

This is held as a 'contingency fund' to help New Zealand re-enter export markets in the event of a biosecurity incursion or disruption in quota markets. The current outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in Indonesia throws the importance of this into sharp relief.

Thirdly, the NZMB oversees the use of the interest from these reserves, facilitating the process to make this available to industry-good projects.

Since 2004, a total of $79 million of interest has been invested in the sheep and beef sector. Farmers will be familiar with many of these programmes.

They include the major investment in sheep genetics, which has helped transform productivity, the pastoral genomics programme, market development in Germany and the UK, early funding of the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) scheme and meat processing efficiency and meat product quality and latterly the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP).

Current initiatives include investing up to $1m this year in the Informing New Zealand Beef (INZB) beef genetics programme.

Some farmers may be thinking "Doesn't Beef +Lamb New Zealand do this?" The confusion is understandable because the work of the two organisations is closely aligned and, over time, B+LNZ has taken on some of the NZMB's functions, but they each have their own very specific roles.

The NZMB does not undertake market access work or negotiate meat quotas. That is done by B+LNZ Ltd, the ecport industry and government. The NZMB is entrusted with implementing and managing the quotas once they are in place.

This tight focus on managing quotas enables farmers to get the best possible returns and the NZMB's very effective work has built international trust in New Zealand to reliably deliver high quality products in line with these international trade agreements.

The NZMB's role in industry-good programmes is not to identify or to administer them. It is purely as a funder. B+LNZ Ltd, as the industry good organisation, takes potential projects to the NZMB, which considers them and consults with farmers.

It's a very effective process that allows interest from the reserves to be used, with farmers' agreement, to enhance the levy-dollar in B+LNZ's industry-good programmes.

The NZMB work is a very good example of the collaborative approach that has seen New Zealand's primary producers continue to thrive and contribute to New Zealand's economy.

As it heads into its second century, the NZMB is well placed to continue to help the sector achieve the best possible returns for red meat.

Andrew Morrison is chairman of the New Zealand Meat Board.

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