Thursday, August 1, 2013

Closed door talks insult Farmer suppliers

Who decides the future of the sheep industry?
I didn’t want to write about this anymore, but the recent article in the farmers weekly “Meat talks near end” incensed me to write about it again.  

I know I can only speak for myself but I have to say I have been disgusted with the arrogance, I guess you would call it (perhaps even ignorance, or condescension or all these things) of the meat companies.  They are treating us as if we are kids who should be seen and not heard: you just wait there and we shall talk amongst ourselves and once we have agreed on what is best for you and us, we shall then tell you what is going to change!!!!!.  No, it’s alright farmers and shareholder suppliers we don’t want your input as to how things should change or care exactly what you want, we are the experts, we know!!!!   I am afraid this is how I feel and especially so about the two cooperatives, all of them must answer to their shareholders, but the cooperative shareholders are also their suppliers, who in theory they are supposed to work in the best interests of.  Private companies can do what they like, but cooperatives?

At the very least you would think that you would invite the current executives of the Meat Industry Excellence Group “MIEG” to partake in the discussions given their recent road show meetings around the country, but from what I have read they are not part of it and have no idea of what the Meat companies have been talking about.

The stock response for justifying private, confidential closed door discussions is the information is commercially sensitive, which occasionally rings true, but more often than not in my experience it’s simply an excuse to exclude the public or other interested parties.   I doubt very much they are discussing balance sheets, debt loadings etc, most of which is freely available anyway.   I am sure if there was some commercial sensitivity (which I doubt) they could have had the MIEG involved on the basis that all such discussions are to remain confidential, at least you would then have some input from our defacto representation.

The reason I write these articles is to hopefully make others think seriously about it all and perhaps do something, not sure if I am succeeding in this regard!  But I also believe that expressing your ideas in public as opposed to a mate or neighbour provides more chance of someone developing that idea or tweaking it or coming up with something altogether better because they have turned their mind to it.  Who knows what might come from it, but this is a lot less likely with private closed door discussions.

One final thing; the tradable slaughter rights that people keep talking about was an idea developed decades ago to address capacity issues.  I have the original 70 or 80 page report and have admittedly only read the executive summary, but its purpose was to address and discourage the development of excess processing capacity, it does not address procurement issues at all, in fact the report actually promotes competition at the gate.    Deciding the correct level is apparently incredibly difficult, if too high or too low it has no effect whatsoever and as I said moreover it does nothing to solve the procurement problem we have.   Procurement and in particular the way it is done is admittedly just one problem we have, but I believe it is the first one that must be remedied if we are to turn things around, the eternal optimist (which incidentally is not me at the moment) would like to think that if we can sort out the meat industry, we actually may grow sheep numbers again as it will be profitable and accordingly in years to come we may need the current excess capacity!

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