Home » NZ Could Be Asia’s Food Basket – Groser

NZ Could Be Asia’s Food Basket – Groser

News From : DagangHalal.com (09 Nov 2009)

New Zealand food exporters could be entering a golden era that includes being Asia’s food basket for the 21st century, Trade Minister Tim Groser says.

Farming leaders have made much of the opportunity for New Zealand from a 2050 global population of 9.5 billion, 3.5 billion more than now and requiring a doubling of food production – opportunities Mr Groser and a leading agricultural academic say are real.

“New Zealand, in my view, now faces the most promising and positive outlook for trade in 40 years,” Mr Groser told Canterbury farmers last week.

Massey University’s chair of pastoral agriculture, Prof Jacqueline Rowarth, agreed, saying New Zealand’s efficient production of quality food made it ideally positioned.

“Logic says that New Zealand food will be highly in demand.”

Mr Groser based his optimism on existing and pending free trade agreements, particularly with Asia, changing attitudes to world trade and growing wealth in developing countries.

“We have far more opportunities than we can ever use,” he said.

With most of that growth expected from Asia, Mr Groser said exporters needed to know what those markets required.

World trade in halal food and products was estimated at $NZ2.8 trillion and growing, and New Zealand was already the largest exporter of halal dairy products and sheepmeat and third or fourth for beef.

“If we can establish the climate of confidence required, we can consolidate our competitive position,” he said.

New Zealand’s point of difference had to be quality and safe food, but meeting those standards meant listening to customer concerns on issues such as welfare and climate change.

Recently, New Zealand hoki was caught up in a decision by supermarket chain Waitrose to stop stocking fish it deemed to be over-fished or harvested by what it considered irresponsible means, in the case of hoki, bottom trawling.

Walmart, Starbucks and McDonald’s were all introducing environmental standards and that included climate-change concerns.

Mr Groser said the risk to producers was not at governmental level, but came from those who bought our food.

“It is that our customers, or rather the retailers that make crucial decisions on sourcing, may walk away from New Zealand over environmental, climate-change or other production processes and methods.

“That is a real risk.

Don’t treat it lightly would be my advice.”

Prof Rowarth said research showed New Zealand pastoral production would feed about 30 million people, but those were affluent people who wanted high-quality, safe food that met high welfare and environmental standards which were scientifically verified.

One of those issues was methane emissions from livestock, but AgResearch was now able to identify stock which emitted lower levels of greenhouse gas, technology she said farmers could use in future breeding programmes.

Prof Rowarth said society must also value farmers, acknowledge they were doing their best and if higher production standards were imposed, accept the price of food must also increase.

In the past decade, the cost of producing 1kg of milk solids has more than doubled to $3.50 a kg of milk solids.

Even on a low-cost-input farm with little or no debt it cost $2.23/kg, she said.

In 2007-08, there was a public outcry when the price of a representative weekly basket of food rose 15% to $150, but Prof Rowarth said at the same time people were paying $126 a week for transport, $96 for entertainment and $200 for “miscellaneous and other”.

“What do they want us to do as agriculturalists?”

Recent comments that people should become vegetarians to address climate change was also flawed, she said, as to do so ignored the use of fertiliser and ground cultivation to grow the crops and the associated emissions of nitrous oxide which was a much more damaging greenhouse gas than methane.

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