A call to (f)arms

August 5, 2012

An independent report on the future of New Zealand’s agri-food sector has made a  call to arms.

The report commissioned by the Riddet Institute calls for a joint approach from industry and government to drive the activities needed to treble the value of exports by the sector by 2025.

It was developed by an independent team led by Dr Kevin Marshall, in response to a call by industry senior executives, who challenged the Institute  to develop a strategy for science and education-led economic advancement of the New Zealand food industry.

Dr Marshall said, “Our strategies are neither new nor unique, but, in the past, implementation by industry has failed. Crucially we have provided a pathway and a proposed mechanism for action that will work. There is urgency now, because New Zealand faces a mediocre economic future if we don’t drive the major recommendations in this report to fruition.

“Agri-food leaders need to know what to do, how to do it and how to develop the resources they need to do it effectively.”

Professor Paul Moughan, Riddet Institute co-director said, “New Zealand has unrealised potential in agri-food. But until all key parts of the sector work together in a planned way, New Zealand’s economic growth will be not be maximised. It’s time for action by the agri-food industry and action that has a good chance of success. This is not just another strategy, but a blueprint for action.”

The Institute  describes itself as  Centre of Research Excellence focusing on the boundaries between food science and digestive physiology and human nutrition

It’s a partnership between the University of Auckland, AgResearch, Plant & Food Research, Massey University, and the University of Otago.

The report  has come up with four transformational strategies:

       1.   Selectively and profitably increase the quantities and sales of the current range of agri-food products.

       2.   Profitably produce and market new, innovative, high value food and beverage products.

       3.   Develop value chains that enhance the integrity, value and delivery of  New Zealand products and increase profits to producers, processors and exporters.

       4.   Become world leaders in sustainability and product integrity.

And it says:

None of  these strategies is new – all have been raised in one or more previous reports. They are all critically important and complement one another but they have not yet been adequately acted on to achieve the level of growth targeted for the sector.

The targets are expressed as revenue goals but it is important to recognise that volume alone is not the purpose of  the strategies.  The focus on growing customer value thus enabling higher prices, and reducing costs, will together contribute to higher margins and so to more profits for sector businesses.  Lower costs may allow lower prices that may make it possible to compete in markets which are otherwise inaccessible.

 Government has taken many effective steps in the last few years that will contribute to accelerating growth of  the  agri-food sector.  The agri-food industry must now make the most of  the opportunities provided by these initiatives. The targets have been set. Government has set direction and committed increased effort and resources. Industry must now act.

The Institute has a vision for  agri-foods in 2025: that the sector makes an even greater contribution to New Zealand’s social, environmental and economic well-being in a  changing world:

         •    New Zealand’s agri-food sector is globally recognised and valued by customers and consumers as a trusted supplier of  quality goods and services that meet market demands and for which they pay a premium;

         •    Using innovative processes, agri-food businesses have profitably increased overseas earnings to $60 billion p.a., thereby contributing 50% of  the Government’s 2025 goal of  raising the contribution of  total exports from 30% to 40% of  GDP;

         •    Sufficient R&D and capability building has been undertaken such that agri-food businesses are poised to continue to grow export revenue profitably;

         •    Sustainable practices are embedded across all agri-food production and manufacturing industries;

         •    Product standards and regulations have developed in New Zealand in conjunction with industry and are considered to be a source of  competitive advantage rather than an imposed compliance cost;

         •    Employees in the agri-food sector enjoy salaries that are competitive with those of  other industries and countries;

         •    Government agencies and the private sector collaborate closely with a shared vision;

     and New Zealand continues to be a great place in which to live and pursue a career.

The Institute has made a call to arms which is in effect a call to farms and the industries which service and support them from researchers through to processors and marketers.

The world’s population is growing faster than its food production.

New Zealand is well placed to benefit from that but increased production, and the financial rewards which come from that, won’t happen without research and the willingness and ability to implement its findings.


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