Are food imports a problem?

Rural News reports that farming leaders are astounded by the statistics which show New Zealand imports 40% or our total food needs and 70% of processed food.

They are much higher than expected, says Federated Farmers’ Meat and Fibre chairman Bruce Wills.

It sounds very high,’ Wills says, adding, ‘The ‘buy Kiwi made’ campaign people should be measuring the impact of this.’The still-high dollar ‘must be playing a big part in those numbers’. And high local labour costs will also be a factor.

‘I would like to see a breakdown of those figures. These may be value-added products that we are importing. We as a farming nation must keep an eye on this and make more effort to make the products ourselves.’


 I don’t necessarily agree there is a problem with these numbers, nor that we need to make more effort to process more of our produce here.

While we are very good at producing meat, dairy produce and some fruit, vegetables and grains we can’t grow rice or bananas and a lot of other food that we need.

We also need to consider economics. If we receive more for our products on overseas markets then both producers and the country are better off if we supply international markets rather than the domestic one.

And we must also take production costs into account. At first glance it seems a bit silly to export the raw produce, process it and import the finished product. But if that can be done at a lower cost while meeting food health and safety standards without compromising quality then it makes sense.

I prefer to buy fresh food and local food is usually fresher; I also support local businesses where I can. But as an exporting nation our wealth depends on people in other countries buying our produce and we would be the losers if they start demanding their own local produce rather than ours.

2 Responses to Are food imports a problem?

  1. JC says:

    If we are importing so much, then there’s an obvious market for it and we need to understand it and where possible look for a market opportunity to do it ourselves.

    Maybe we just didn’t realise there was such a market.


  2. Mr Dennis says:

    “While we are very good at producing meat, dairy produce and some fruit, vegetables and grains we can’t grow rice or bananas and a lot of other food that we need.”

    I fully support the right of people to go and buy what they want, whether imported or local. But the trend of people to move from potatoes to rice as a staple food is an environmental issue as well as an economic one.

    Potatoes can be produced locally for minimal environmental cost. Rice is produced in Asia and uses large quantities of sometimes scarce water, and produces high levels of methane emissions, then has to be transported here.

    This is a problem with people’s urban lifestyle and the move towards Asian cooking rather than the traditional meat & 3 veg. But this trend reduces the income available to local producers and could be damaging the environment.

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