Agri-business boss gets top honour

Graeme Harrison, chairman of the $1.2 billion Anzco Foods, has been named as a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Anzco Foods chairman Graeme Harrison has been named as a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, just a year after being recognised by the nation's farmers as the agribusiness person of the year.

The Queens Birthday honour, announced today, recognised his services to business.

The founder and principal of Anzco Foods, Sir Graeme spent 20 years as the company's managing director before taking over the chairmanship from Eddie Tonks in 2004.

Anzco was originally a Meat Producers Board subsidiary marketing lamb in North Asia and was set up by Sir Graeme -- then Meat Board deputy chief executive - when he went to Japan in 1984 to organise the first foreign-owned meat importing company in that country.

Sir Graeme, from a Mid Canterbury farming family, was briefly with the Department of Trade and Industry before joining the Meat Board.

Anzco initially developed a market for grass-fed sheepmeat but later moved into exporting produce.

In 1988 the Japanese Government decided to liberalise access to a number of agricultural products, including beef, and Anzco quickly moved to form joint venture companies with key Japanese distributors.

Today, Anzco has annual sales of more than $1.2 billion and employs 2800 people on 11 production sites in New Zealand and has sales and marketing offices in Japan, Taiwan, North America, Britain and Belgium.

Japan's devastating quake and tsunami in March forced the company to freeze some meat, lowering its value, but reduced it by only a few hundred thousand dollars from the $280 million a year Anzco normally expects to earn from its Japanese exports.

Sir Graeme's vision for the company is a continuing focus on increasing investment in downstream manufacturing, including food solutions, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals and food flavourings.

He also heads Anzco's two joint ventures with Itoham Foods, Five Star Beef and Itoham New Zealand, and holds directorships outside the ANZCO Group, including at Sealord and Westland Milk Products.

Sir Graeme played a key role in Nissui buying Brierley's share in Sealord, New Zealand's largest fishing company, 11 years ago, for about $206m.

He is also chairman of the New Zealand International Business Forum, and has said that a poor appreciation by the public of how primary industry businesses work is a key reason primary industry is poorly represented on New Zealand's Stock Exchange.

In his own company's case, he said a passion for New Zealand agriculture and its capabilities lay at the heart of its growth.

"I'm passionate about New Zealand agriculture and the products we produce," he said.