Disappointment but little surprise has greeted the news that the Meat Industry Taskforce has disbanded.
Taskforce chairman Sir John Anderson said yesterday that consultant PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), which was commissioned to complete an industry analysis, could not get informed consent from all industry participants.
In addition, Sir John said that in the last week one company had announced it was withdrawing its support for an industry strategy, saying it was pursuing its own plans, making it impossible to compile a report.
Meat and Wool New Zealand (MWNZ) established the taskforce earlier this year to create a red meat industry strategy to address international marketing, supplier dynamics and processing.
Owen Poole who chairs Alliance Group said his company supported the taskforce and was disappointed it had failed.
Mr Poole said the strategy could have been the catalyst for industry aggregation, and the fact PWC was going to seek contributions from farmers, meat companies and unions, would have produced meaningful results.
“I see it as a lost opportunity,” he said.
Silver Fern Farms chief executive Keith Cooper said he supported any initiative to create an industry strategy, but the taskforce never released its terms of reference, so companies did not know what it was trying to achieve.
Mr Cooper said Silver Fern Farms (formerly PPCS) was not the reason the taskforce failed.
“In regard to the Meat Industry taskforce announcement, from a Silver Fern Farms perspective, we were never asked for informed consent by PWC on the issue.”
The company supported any initiatives to improve supplier returns.
“Silver Fern Farms supported any initiative about reviewing the industry strategy or structures.”
Anzco chairman Graeme Harrison was also supportive but not surprised it had failed, given the reluctance of the four major meat companies to co-operate on industry issues.
“Unless the four companies were prepared to talk in meaningful ways, then it was never going to happen.”
While he had reservations about the size of regulatory and commercial hurdles the taskforce faced, he said it would have provided an important circuit-breaker for farmer confidence.
Mr Harrison said commercial reality would now play its hand and there would be change.
“Sooner or later, something will happen and it will be a commercial decision.”
The 07-08 season was a very tough one for sheep farmers with falling returns and steeply increasing prices for fuel, fertiliser and other inputs. The outlook for next season’s lamb prices is more optimistic, but even so they’ll be hoping that whatever happens in the industry happens sooner not later.