Posts Tagged ‘Commodity Levies Act’

Future of red meat promotion under threat

September 17, 2014

Next year’s Commodity Levy Act referendum is one of the factors concentrating meat industry minds on the question of red meat promotional investment. B+LNZ is currently conducting a consultation round with individual meat companies to find out how this critically important, if contentious, topic should be agreed for the benefit of all industry participants.

 

B+LNZ Chief Executive Scott Champion told me it’s too early to make any predictions about the outcome, at least until after completion of the consultation round at the end of September. With the referendum about 12 months away, the process is geared to providing time to gather enough detail for promotional strategy development before taking this out to farmers to test it in advance of the vote.

 

The purpose of the discussions with meat companies is to ensure market expenditure is aligned with what the meat industry wants while enabling B+LNZ to fund its essential activities which must now confront new pressures such as environmental constraints. Any new proposal will also have to satisfy levy payers or risk derailing the success of the referendum, although improved sheep and beef returns if maintained should make a Yes vote more certain.

 

The present mix of promotion funded by the farmer levy includes two main strands – the first is country of origin marketing for lamb in the UK, Europe and North America and for beef in China, Japan, Taiwan and Korea, supplemented by some jointly funded variations that support individual exporter programmes; the second comprises campaigns with matching contributions from participating exporter groups across a range of markets and products.

 

For example since 2011 exporting companies have put $1 million a year into sheepmeat promotion in UK and Europe to supplement B+LNZ’s budgeted expenditure. Equally a group of exporters has shared in a campaign to promote New Zealand grass fed beef in China.

 

This strategy has resulted in a move away from generic mass marketing and advertising to more tightly focused campaigns based on research and analysis. This has reinforced the importance of educating consumers on how to cook beef and lamb. In addition to the website, social media is becoming an increasingly important weapon in reaching the target market.

 

While many years’ brand development investment in the UK has resulted in 90% top of mind consumer recall of New Zealand lamb, research has identified the need for exporters to target consumers closer to the point of purchase because of lamb’s premium price position. A large part of the promotional work in Asia to support New Zealand beef has focused initially on the benefits of grass fed beef – low calorie, low cholesterol and low fat – for the premium restaurant trade as the most effective way to reach consumers.

 

Spending limited funds wisely, whether contributed by farmers or meat exporters, is a crucial issue for New Zealand’s red meat sector, both internationally and domestically. Withdrawal of promotional support as a result of failure to get agreement between meat companies and B+LNZ would effectively mean the industry has chosen to shoot itself in the foot.

 

An immediate issue is whether it will be remotely possible to obtain agreement of all MIA members to contribute funds for the purpose of country of origin promotion and, if so, how much. Of the larger meat companies, Silver Fern Farms’ CEO Keith Cooper has indicated a strong preference for company brand promotion as opposed to the generic alternative. Instead of glossy marketing in traditional markets, he would be prepared to consider some funding for educational promotion in emerging markets. Other companies are still in favour of country of origin New Zealand promotion in specific markets.

 

Since it often seems there’s as much chance of getting an agreed meat industry position as there is of formulating an agreed United Nations resolution on Syria, I suggested to Champion this might be a challenge. However he said he was ‘reasonably optimistic’ of getting an industry agreement.

 

The big question farmers and companies alike must consider is what the long term impact of ceasing all country of origin promotion would be. There will obviously be some changes to the current promotional mix to make better use of available money, otherwise B+LNZ would not be in discussion with the meat companies on developing a promotional strategy that better matches its objectives.

 

The unanswered questions are how much B+LNZ is willing to spend on country of origin promotion as against jointly funded activities and what the companies are willing to contribute to the general rather than individual good.

 

In my opinion the New Zealand brand is an umbrella under which individual company brand activity should function, but it isn’t realistic for any one company to achieve consumer recognition for its brand in one, let alone several, markets without that support.

 

It is obviously important for meat exporters to support their own branded programmes in selected markets, while the New Zealand industry maintains its competitive nature.

 

But levy paying farmers have both an obligation and a right to support their product both in New Zealand and overseas. B+LNZ is farmers’ vehicle for coordinating their investment by investing their levy funds to the best effect. The meat companies have an obligation to reach an agreement which will support this investment constructively. If not the red meat sector will be in danger of completely losing its way.

Thorny question of wool levy benefits

September 10, 2014

Sheep farmers have the chance to vote for or against a compulsory levy under the Commodity Levies Act (CLA) in October. The Wool Levy Group’s proposal indicates a levy of 3 cents a kilo which would raise $4.7 million to be spent on a combination of education, communication, advocacy, R&D and administration. This is either too much, far too little or a worthwhile beginning which depends on your point of view.

 

In this week’s Farmers Weekly Ruth Richardson argues very strongly against wasting any more farmer money on a compulsory levy, citing quite justifiably the enormous waste of funds both by the Wool Board and on its subsequent disestablishment. On the opposite side of the fence sit the Wool Levy Group and its supporters.

 

Of course Richardson speaks from the perspective of being Chair of the NZ Merino Company which broke away from the Wool Board after successfully arguing for the separation of merino farmers’ levies from the confusing morass of overhead and expenditure on wool, both beneficial and useless.

 

She maintains what the wool industry needs is more market, not more levy and highlights the success of NZ Merino in ‘facing and making markets from consumer to grower’ as the best way of moving up the value chain.

 

Of course she is probably correct because you can’t argue with the profitable performance and success of NZ Merino since it went solo. But my feeling is this point of view may be a bit too simplistic for the rest of the wool industry which covers a much wider spectrum of wool types, microns and end uses. Merino has the advantage of being a more easily promoted fibre with its predominant application for high quality and high fashion woollen clothing.

 

In last week’s Farmers Weekly Steven Fookes argued the necessity of the industry investing funds wisely in promoting the unique characteristics of wool to bring wool back to the attention of retailers, designers and architects who are looking for just such a fibre.

 

There are two examples of industry initiatives which are doing just what Richardson and Fookes say should happen, both achieved without the imposition of a commodity levy and both concentrating on strong carpet wools at the opposite end of the spectrum from merino..

 

Wools of New Zealand has 700 shareholders representing 14.5 million kilos of strong wool and with the Laneve brand has a number of carpet yarn and carpet manufacturers as partners in North America and the UK.

 

Elders Primary Wool’s efforts and progress with Just Shorn in the USA are a prime example both of what can be achieved with selective distribution and targeted promotion as well as the time it takes to achieve the objective. Just Shorn is specifically focused on promoting wool’s qualities for carpets to top end flooring retailers in the retail group which are franchisees of CCA Global Partners.

 

Therefore the big question is whether a levy is likely to produce better or quicker results than the industry has achieved of its own accord. The main benefit of a levy would be to capture all wool growers, not just those that have been willing to invest in one or other of the initiatives.

 

But then one must ask if the small amount of funds raised in a levy would be better spent on the existing initiatives rather than being applied to a new organisation with another overhead structure. Richardson’s point the amount available for R&D will go nowhere is undoubtedly correct, while even $3.2 million for advocacy and education to raise demand is unlikely to go very far or achieve any measurable improvement.

 

Fookes’ comment about the importance of industry investment is also quite right, but it is already happening without a levy. A better solution would be to try to build on the moves towards industry rationalisation which have started to happen with the Primary Wool Cooperative’s offer for a 5% share in Wool Equities and chairman Bay de Lautour’s stated desire to merge PWC with Wools of New Zealand to form a single farmer owned organisation.

None of this will happen in a hurry, but it seems to me to be a tidier solution than to set up a new organisation which harks back to the days of the Wool Board.

 

As with the meat industry the challenge will be to get all growers to agree what they want and are willing to pay for, but the focus on strong carpet wools would be a clear goal which all strong wool growers should be prepared to support.

Beef + Lamb NZ expenditure on overseas promotion under review

August 28, 2014

Next year sheep and beef farmers will have their five yearly referendum under the Commodity Levies Act when they get to vote on whether they wish to continue funding Beef + Lamb New Zealand as their industry good body. (more…)

Meat & Wool suffers from an excess of democracy

March 25, 2010

Without wishing to belittle the efforts of Kirsten Bryant and Anne Munro who have achieved historic success by being the first women elected to Meat & Wool New Zealand’s board, I am uneasy about the implications of the voting process for the organisation’s future. (more…)