Alliance Group might buy lamb from South America to fill orders it can’t meet from New Zealand.
Chief executive Grant Cuff said with sheep numbers declining around the world, the Invercargill co-operative was looking at supplying North American and European markets with South American lamb.
Alliance considered a similar possibility about a decade ago, but Cuff said the situation had changed.
At the time South American lambs were lighter in weight, there were insufficient numbers and issues with disease and traceability.
South American farmers had improved the quality of lambs and addressed the disease and animal traceability issues which, together with falling sheep numbers, had encouraged Alliance to revisit the idea.
“New Zealand has looked at it before. It is all a matter of timing and priorities and we think the moment is right to have another look.”
Cuff said Alliance was still to decide if the lamb would be sold under its own brands, but initially that was unlikely.
Guaranteeing continuous supply may be necessary to satisfy export markets and if that can’t be done with our own lamb, meat companies will have to look elsewhere.
I have no concern about the quality of meat from South America. I’ve enjoyed several meals of lamb in Argentina and the meat was at least equal to the best I have eaten here, although that was due in part to the way it was cooked – on an asado .
However, there is a danger in branding their meat like ours because foot and mouth disease is a recurring problem in South America.
Keeping separate brands will ensure there is no risk to our exports by association with theirs if or when there is another outbreak of the disease there.