Despite "disruptions" such as alternative proteins and a "tough" global trading environment, Damien O'Connor believes the red meat sector has a positive future.

The Minister of Agriculture spoke to The Country's Jamie Mackay about yesterday's Red Meat Sector Conference where he says there was a sense of collaboration "which was great."

Mackay brings up foreign ownership of New Zealand red meat companies in an attempt to "get a bite" from O'Connor, who opposed Shanghai Maling's investment in Silver Fern Farms when he was in Opposition.

O'Connor remains philosophical about the decision, saying Shanghai Maling is a "done deal now."


"As long as the farmers' realise ... they're effectively Chinese-owned ... there are lots and lots of foreign-owned companies in this country, the issues is they then have the right to determine direction of travel - as long as that's aligned with our direction of travel that's great, but we've got to realise we don't get something for nothing ... we can't have our cake and eat it too."

Listen below:

Statistics show farmers are increasingly working off-farm to supplement their incomes. Mackay wonders if this is a "non-story," as farmers did this back in the '80s. O'Connor agrees, saying "we still have a very ... high cost system based off land values ... and that means we've got to go out and get a bit more money to pay the bills."

John Wilson has stepped down as chairman of Fonterra and O'Connor says his dedication to the dairy industry has to be acknowledged.

"He's played his part, now it's up to the next chairman John Monaghan and whoever follows and the board to get on and do the right thing. A new CEO coming in, hopefully that's an opportunity for Fonterra to step up."

Also in today's interview: Damien O'Connor gives a Mycoplasma bovis update and comments on MPI's handling of the cattle disease and also praises Winston Peters for his role as Acting Prime Minister.