Beef and Lamb New Zealand is to close some overseas offices as it concentrates on a new marketing strategy to differentiate this country's products with those of international competitors.
After about 12 months of consultation, Beef and Lamb chairman James Parsons released the strategy which he said marked a change in direction for the organisation.
The story of New Zealand farming and its farmers would be at the heart of Beef and Lamb New Zealand's new market development strategy targeting new and emerging markets.
Parsons said development of a red meat sector story, which captured the culture, values and integrity long associated with New Zealand sheep and beef farmers, would be a way to differentiate this country from its competitors in the international marketplace.
The story, building on New Zealand's farming systems with free-range, grass-fed livestock - farmed to the highest standards of animal welfare - would be authenticated through a national quality assurance programme, developed through the Red Meat Profit Partnership.
"The New Zealand red meat story and national assurance programme will support meat companies' own individual marketing strategies and will be a valuable resource for other partners, like meat importers, distributors, retailers and food service operators, and government agencies.
"This marketing strategy marks a change in direction for Beef and Lamb's market development programme."
The farmer-funded organisation had worked collaboratively with the red meat sector to develop a long-term sector strategy with clearly defined roles for Beef and Lamb, meat exporters and marketers and industry stakeholders, Parsons said.
Under the new direction, Beef and Lamb would close permanent offices in the United Kingdom, South Korea and Japan in favour of more flexible resources based in New Zealand.
Beef and Lamb would continue to have a base in China and the organisation would still maintain its own strong, international network and continue to work internationally with partner organisations including meat companies, Meat Industry Association, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.
The strategy did not affect the organisation's office in Brussels, where the focus on maintaining trade access arrangements and international relationships with counterpart organisations in Europe was more important than ever, he said.
"Our established markets are still vitally important. However, responsibility for servicing and maintaining these markets will be managed primarily through our meat exporters using New Zealand red meat story collateral developed by Beef and Lamb."
The sector agreed exporters had deep commercial relationships developed over many years and were well placed to look after the market maintenance role.
The review involved intensive engagement with beef and sheep farmers to ensure their interests remained at the heart of the new approach, Parsons said.
Beef and Lamb consulted widely over 12 months, running focus groups and workshops and the result is quite a fundamental shift in approach, strongly supported by meat exporters and farmers.
"We are confident the new approach will drive greater impact for farmers on every levy dollar invested."
While New Zealand's beef and lamb products were well positioned in consumers' minds, farm-gate returns were still not satisfactory.
An area Beef and Lamb could influence was how to better position New Zealand products in the minds of consumers, he said.