New research highlights value of New Zealand’s red meat sector as industry launches General Election manifesto

// Industry

The New Zealand red meat sector’s significant contribution to the country’s national and regional economies has been highlighted in new research.

meat processing

The independent study commissioned by the Meat Industry Association (MIA) and Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) shows the meat processing and exporting sector and sheep and beef farmers collectively generate $12 billion in income per year for the country and account for more than 92,000 jobs, almost 5 percent of New Zealand’s full-time workforce.

The sector is also responsible for $4.6 billion in household income (on average that works out at $3,300 for every household in New Zealand) and represents approximately a fifth of New Zealand’s productive sector.

The release of the research by SG Heilbron Economic and Policy Consulting coincides with B+LNZ and the MIA launching a joint manifesto ahead of New Zealand’s General Election in September.

The manifesto outlines the importance of political parties working with the red meat sector as partners to re-build the New Zealand economy. The policy blueprint also identifies the challenges and opportunities in environmental issues, trade and market access, animal welfare, food safety, biosecurity, innovation, employment relations, immigration and health and safety.

Sirma Karapeeva, chief executive of the Meat Industry Association, said the research showed the importance of the sector to the New Zealand economy and regional New Zealand.

“As New Zealand’s largest manufacturing industry and the second largest goods exporter, the sector is critical to the prosperity and wealth of the country’s economy. The industry is also a significant employer, mainly in regional New Zealand, supporting the livelihoods of families and rural communities.

“Despite the supply chain disruption caused by COVID-19, our industry has displayed real agility and resilience and continued to export lamb, beef and co-products to our 120 markets across the globe. With New Zealand experiencing significant economic headwinds, it’s critical we have a sustainable and thriving red meat sector to help the country weather the storm.

“The Government has a huge once-in-a-generation task ahead of it. The priority post-COVID-19 must be ensuring we have our long-term policy settings and infrastructure right. Open and predictable market access is vital for the ongoing success of our export-focused sector as it creates a stable and level international playing field in which our exporters can prosper and thrive.

“Our industry is one of the biggest trainers in New Zealand. The training system for meat processors is extremely effective at putting new workers onto career pathways and training them. We must have the right skills development and training framework in place to support the industry, our people and the country.”

B+LNZ CEO Sam McIvor says the red meat sector’s contribution to the social, economic and environmental wellbeing of the country is significant and the industry has underlined its resilience and its importance in the wake of COVID-19.
“COVID-19 has caused extraordinary damage to people’s lives, livelihoods and economies across the globe. It will take some time for the world to recover from the impact.

“In this period of adversity, the primary sector has shone. Despite significant drought, feed shortages across the country and the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak, our industry has continued to perform strongly and deliver for New Zealand.

“It’s important that when making any decision about the recovery and the future, the country must ask itself - what is good for exports, employment, productivity and the environment? 

“The Government must support practical on-the-ground initiatives by farmers to improve the environment, while ensuring that the environmental policy settings are right.  

“A key concern for the sector is the impact of various government policies that incentivise the conversion of sheep and beef farms into forestry, due to the negative impacts on rural communities. The sector wants limits on the ability of fossil fuel polluters to offset their emissions by planting exotic trees on farms.

“We need to better understand and utilise our water resources. This includes water capture, storage and distribution to meet both productive and urban needs. We do not lack water in New Zealand - we lack the understanding and infrastructure to use it in a way that meets our economic, social, cultural and environmental requirements. It can be done.

“Improved rural connectivity and continued co-investment in initiatives and research aimed at value adding and lifting the productivity and profitability of the sector is also crucial.

“Despite the current uncertainties created by COVID-19, it is an exciting time for the red meat sector with the global population expecting to grow by two billion by 2050 and protein demand forecast to double by 2050.

“Globally, consumers seek out our products, thanks to the work famers have done to establish free range, grass-fed, natural farming systems – and it is our time to lead New Zealand’s economic recovery.”

Research highlights

The SG Heilbron study found the red meat sector is responsible for almost five percent of New Zealand’s full-time workforce with approximately 35,700 people employed directly and more than 56,700 full-time jobs underpinned by the sector as the result of flow-on impacts.

The magnitude of the red meat sector’s contribution is even more pronounced at a regional level with its impact reaching almost 12 percent of value-added, and in some cases, such as in Otago/ Southland, over 12 percent of full-time employment.

In the Otago/Southland region, the sector employs 7,700 full-time people with more than 10,000 full-time jobs underpinned by the industry. It also contributes 11.5 percent of household income in the region.

In Taranaki/Manawatu and Whanganui, the sector supports almost 10 percent of full-time employment in the region with 5,200 directly and underpinning more than 8,300 full-time equivalent jobs. It also contributes almost nine percent of household income in the region ($650 million or $4770 per household). Almost two thirds of household income impacts in the region is derived from the flow-on effects.

Meanwhile, the production of livestock contributes 2.2 percent of full-time equivalent employment in New Zealand. The meat processing and exporting sector contributes approximately 4.4 percent of full-time equivalent employment and 3.9 percent of value-added when flow on effects are taken into account.


For more information please contact B+LNZ’s Katie Jans on or 027 838 6353, or Sam Halstead on or 027 474 6065.

Notes to editor: The research by SG Heilbron Economic and Policy Consulting examined the economic impact of beef and sheepmeat production, processing and exporting in terms of employment, value-add and household income, looking at both sides of the farm-gate. It also identified the impacts from a national and regional perspective.