Feeding New Zealand First
Mystery Creek Fieldays are over for another year and as with every year there’s lots to buy and there’s lots to listen to. This year in addition to the release of the annual KPMG report, the Agri-business Agenda, the Prime Minister attended for most of Fieldays and made a number of speeches. Her key, and well received, message was the importance of the rural sector to New Zealand’s prosperity and sustainability.
This is the tenth year that the KPMG Agri-business Agenda has been produced and presented to Fieldays. The report is generated in part through focus groups run throughout New Zealand, so it provides a situation report on what the primary sector is concerned about and how it is going. Those focus groups are then supplemented from KPMG’s world-wide work and insights that Ian Proudfoot, the Global Head of Agribusiness KPMG International, has gleaned on his travels. It makes a compelling case. This year the key themes of the KPMG report had amazing synergy with the Prime Minister’s messages.
The Prime Minister stated that there were three factors that consumers were seeking from the producers of their food: being able to trust the food (food safety); eating quality produce; and, for the food to be sustainably grown. The Prime Minister acknowledged the value the primary sector places on the environment and inter-generational guardianship of our land. She advised that the Government will work with the primary sector to meet the challenges of climate change but that there needs to be genuine change. In the well-being budget $229 million has been allocated to assist the primary sector as a sustainable land use package that includes: providing information and support for farmers and growers making changes to more environmentally sustainable and higher value production; funding to protect and restore at-risk waterways; and, funding to boost the resilience of the biosecurity system. A world-class biosecurity system for New Zealand was the top priority that came from the KPMG focus groups and has been the number one concern of the primary sector for a number years.
Meeting climate change and environmental change is the number one challenge facing growers and farmers. It is expected that the Government will, in the near future, release a discussion document asking for New Zealand’s opinion on the Interim Climate Change Committee’s recommendations and on the Government’s views on how to meet the challenge of climate change. Meeting these challenges will be the most significant change the primary sector has had to face in recent times. It coincides with a major shift in consumer preferences, as reported in the KPMG report, to healthy eating. So the primary sector is facing dual challenges. one being climate change and meeting environmental sustainability requirements and the other being the change in the consumers’ eating preferences.
This was characterised by Ian Proudfoot as the sector needing to move from volume to wellness. One of the current messages from the Ministry for Primary Industries is the need for the primary sector to move from volume to value. Ian said that his international work had shown consumers are progressively eating for health and so he adapted the Ministry’s call for a move from volume to value. Ian noted that healthy eating will become an absolute necessity as no country’s health system could continue to fund the massive range of treatments now required as a consequence of poor diets and unhealthy foods. Here horticulture has an important role to undertake in providing the healthy, good food that it needs for the well-being of New Zealand’s people. So, horticulture has a direct contribution to make the to the well-being budget’s aim as we grow volume, value and wellness. This needs to be taken into account in both the Government’s and regional councils’ planning – we need to be able to grow fruit and vegetables so that New Zealand can have healthy food and, in result, the well-being of our country can improve while reducing the cost to health services. So it is volume to wellness but this will require an increase in volume so as to ensure the increase in wellness.