Farming will be as important for New Zealand’s future as it was for its past, Trade Minister Tim Grocer Groser said.
He was addressing Federated Farmers and painted a very positive picture for the future of farming, and New Zealand.
Among the points he made were:
* The importance of water:
Twenty years ago, I used to say, metaphorically, NZ was in effect a ‘grass exporter’. That is not the metaphor I use today. Today I say NZ is a virtual water exporter. I do not see how China, with 24% of the world’s population, 9% of the world’s arable land and massive problems with water can feed its increasingly sophisticated and growing middle class with the high quality foodstuffs, wine and other products they will demand.
(Daniel Collins posts on this over at Sicblogs.)
* The positive outlook for trade:
We have far more opportunities than we could ever use. It will take years to realize these opportunities, but I see no justification for settling for mediocrity.
* The importance of quality and productivity:
NZ’s point of differentiation is quality and food safety. Is it still low cost? Well, that is a moot point. We still have to remain highly competitive but we are no longer the lowest cost producer. . .
. . .We need to be very careful about our cost structures. But we need to be even more careful about maintaining our extraordinary record of productivity growth in agriculture.
* The customer as the new regulator and the importance of being seen to do something about climate change:
The real risk is not about Governments. It is that our customers, or rather the retailers that make the crucial decisions on sourcing, may walk away from NZ over environmental, climate change or other PPMs – the technical term for production processes and methods. That is a real risk. Don’t treat it lightly, would be my advice.
We need to have integrity right throughout the supply chain. It won’t be achieved easily and we will have to live with inconsistencies as we seek to close the gap between the objective of ‘100% pure’ and current practices of some of our producers who just want to shut their eyes to this challenge.
But it is not just a challenge. There is a huge opportunity.
This speech paints the most positive view of farming and trade I’ve come across for years.
A couple of decades ago politicians were talking about agriculture as a sunset industry. It’s great to have a minister who, while realistic about the challenges, is also positive about the opportunities and believes the sunset industry is set to rise again.