MIA boss: Let’s celebrate our gains

Published date22 June 2022
Publication titleWhanganui Midweek
Karapeeva was in Oamaru for a function to mark National Lamb Day, the 140th anniversary of the first shipment of frozen New Zealand lamb arriving in the United Kingdom in 1882, and the centenary of the New Zealand Meat Board

MIA is the voluntary trade association representing NZ’s red meat processors, marketers and exporters.

She cited the likes of Silver Fern Farms and its zero-carbon beef, launched in the United States by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, as just one reason to celebrate.

Processors had done “remarkable things” with operating their chains and businesses to keep going during the pandemic and Karapeeva was particularly proud of them.

There appeared to be no end in sight to the supply chain and logistics issues globally.

In March, chilled sheepmeat exports to the UK fell by 80 per cent year on year, reflecting the ongoing logistics with shifting chilled product.

But there had also been a lot of positives from Covid-19, including a reconnection with wholefoods, including red meat.

Before the pandemic, there had been a notion that alternative proteins were “going to be the saviour of the world”, but now people were questioning the ingredients going into those products — a “real positive”.

Prices and demand were both strong at the moment but the labour situation was tough. “I can’t overestimate how difficult it has been.”

Processors had been resilient and done all sorts of “really interesting things” to retain labour, from adding shifts to longer shifts and paying above normal rates to attract and retain workers.

However, the industry was competing in such a tight pool — “everybody’s robbing from each other” — and it had been really tough.

In April, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced the Government’s previous border exception for 150 meat processors was fully subscribed and it was expanding the provision by 500 workers.

But Karapeeva questioned how long it would take for Immigration NZ to process those applications. If they did not come for six months, then “what’s the point?”

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