Farmers, dairy product manufacturers and trade representatives in Uruguay and Argentina heard a New Zealand take on current agricultural issues last week.
He knows some Fonterra shareholders are upset by comments made by Cabinet minister Shane Jones about Fonterra chairman John Wilson, and further comments by NZ First leader Winston Peters about Fonterra’s financial performance.
“I know some Fonterra shareholders are a bit upset by the comments but we must also remember that New Zealand First is a vital part of this government and we are going through a Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA) process at the moment,” Lewis told Dairy News.
“NZ First is very influential in this government, and they seem to get their way on certain things. So as members of the dairy community we want the government to do a really good job on this DIRA bill, so we must be mindful of what we say in this political climate, and understand that Shane Jones and his fellow MPs have a fair bit of influence.
“We have to take their feedback on board but we have to make sure we can also still be heard by having a constructive conversation with all those three parties.
“Throwing mud or sh** back is probably not the most constructive thing for the dairy community to be doing at the moment.”
Lewis said he was at that KPMG breakfast where Jones made his comments under Chatham House Rules and those comments took the crowd by surprise.
Lewis says Jones is entitled to his personal opinion like everyone else “but for a Cabinet minister is there a different standard?”.
But Lewis told Dairy News he had declined to talk about this to other media and the media have made more out of it than the people who were there or the people concerned.
He understands the frustration felt by a few people, he says. But Fonterra is owned by 10,000 shareholders and they decide what Fonterra does.
“Fonterra was put together by a government Act -- the DIRA Act -- and the Commerce Commission makes changes to allow a big monopoly to take place.
“That happens with government support so we’ve got to be mindful that we still want government support for Fonterra to be successful in the future and have the DIRA review done properly,” he says.