Melinda Hashimoto Interview



By Christine Clark, PhD student at PRF, The University of Sydney

It was an honour for me to chat with Melinda Hashimoto, the CEO of Egg Farmers of Australia.

Kylie and Melinda from Egg Farmers of Australia

Melinda is a farmer’s daughter from a small beef property (Brahman cross) in Queensland. Having attended university in Rockhampton with a Bachelor of Education she remained in the area and then travelled to Japan spending 5 years teaching there. Upon return to Australia, she completed an MBA at the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba. Former career roles include Adviser to Ministers for Agriculture at Federal and State Levels and QLD Department of Trade and Investment.

I asked her what attracted her to the poultry industry and her answer was that egg production is down to earth and thought-provoking. As a child, Melinda grew up with hens, ducks and geese It’s just amazing how far biosecurity has come, we would never think about having a range of poultry on the one site now but years ago this did happen.

“The agricultural background was always there, even with my teaching career”, said Melinda. It was clear during our chat that Melinda put great emphasis on instilling the awareness of food security and making her students understand the roles of primary industries during her teaching career. Her jobs in various tiers of government taught her the importance of advocacy and communication. Melinda was attracted to the egg industry as it is an Australia industry geared almost entirely towards the domestic market with a small amount of export. It is one of the industries that is low in carbon emissions and highly efficient in resource use. So when the opportunity came knocking on her door, Melinda took up the position, CEO of Egg Farmers of Australia (EFA) in 2019.

Melinda stated that “Joining Egg Farmers of Australia was a great opportunity. In this new role, I needed to re-establish the organisation following EFA being in a 12-month recess. The EFA Board and staff are very proud of where we are today in a few short years”. “The support I received from the people that have worked with me in EFA and those in the egg industry supply chain has been phenomenal”.

Then our conversation turned to the past four years of Melinda’s experience in the egg industry. She said her focus has been on strengthening the network and working closely with government. The difference now of our Egg Farmers organisation is that a lot of the industry is totally invested in it: the nutritionists, vets and researchers, you need the entire supply chain. EFA networks need to be open and accessible, everyone has a part to play. When traveling for EFA, Melinda and Kylie (who works with Melinda) take the opportunity to visit sites, which offers an amazing opportunity to learn about everything involved in running an egg farm. This hands-on experience on farms has greatly strengthened how EFA operates and how it remains highly relevant to the interest of egg farmers.

On a day-to-day basis, Melinda balances between the different areas- carving out time for policy, preparation for meetings, and following up queries. The last item takes up a lot of her time as she addresses members’ requests for assistance while facilitating linkages across the entire industry. One of the EFA’s key roles is advocacy. The future of egg supply in Australia and the key policy issues affecting the egg industry require timely and effective communication between the egg industry and governments. “It is best categorised as long, short, medium term work plans. As there is only Kylie and I, there is always a focus to meet many deadlines”, said Melinda.

Melinda outlines the 3 key areas of focus for the EFA:

  1. Ensuring a strong egg industry proactive and forward thinking of policies.
  2. Rational discussions around standards and guidelines, especially around the phase-out of cage eggs. The decision is now in the hands of the states to decide but it is uncertain as to how monitoring will be handled if each state chooses different time frames. How will this be regulated should one state ban the production of cage eggs, and another allow their production? Strong and effective communication will be required regarding the consequences of various decisions.
  3. A compulsory audit for all egg farmers may be some years off but we will need to ensure a level playing field and help for an increased level of biosecurity.
    Melinda recognises that the challenges faced by agriculture as a whole are immense but the egg industry has a very positive future as a main supplier of quality animal protein for human consumption. Yet the industry does face difficulty in attracting young people to enter the industry who are able to finance the purchase of farms with the capital required, which will see the continued consolidation of the industry although there are many young vets, researchers and nutritionists in the industry.
    EFA have a group called ‘Gen Egg’. The Gen Egg group meets quarterly with an invited speaker at each meeting. This also allows for a casual conversation amongst the group and to discuss various egg industry topics of interest. One third of EFA Members are under 40 and members of Gen Egg, Melinda has an open invitation for students involved in the industry to join and become a member. Be BOLD and come along to get involved in the poultry industry!

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Melinda recognises that the challenges faced by agriculture as a whole are immense but the egg industry has a very positive future as a main supplier of quality animal protein for human consumption. Yet the industry does face difficulty in attracting young people to enter the industry who are able to finance the purchase of farms with the capital required, which will see the continued consolidation of the industry although there are many young vets, researchers and nutritionists in the industry.

EFA have a group called ‘Gen Egg’. The Gen Egg group meets quarterly with an invited speaker at each meeting. This also allows for a casual conversation amongst the group and to discuss various egg industry topics of interest. One third of EFA Members are under 40 and members of Gen Egg, Melinda has an open invitation for students involved in the industry to join and become a member. Be BOLD and come along to get involved in the poultry industry!