Road map to chart industry's way to success, Jon Morgan reports.
New Zealand faces a mediocre economic future if it does not follow a new plan outlined by an independent research centre, agricultural food industry leaders have been told.
At the plan's heart is an Agri-Food Board tasked with growing food exports to $62 billion by 2025.
After a decade of failed inquiries and reports on the need to grow the sector, the Riddet Institute has come up with what it says is a road map to follow.
The institute, a partnership between Auckland University, AgResearch, Plant & Food Research, Massey University and Otago University, released its report, A Call to Arms, in Wellington to agriculture leaders, including Primary Industries Minister David Carter and World Agricultural Forum International Advisory Board chairman Jim Bolger.
Institute chairman Jim Watson insisted it was not just another report. “This really is a blueprint for action. It is not a book to gather dust.”
Presenting the report, former Dairy Research Institute chief executive Kevin Marshall, leader of a “thought leadership team”, stressed urgent action was required by the industry and the Government.
He admonished industry leaders for not taking the lead in developing a strategy for the sector. It was why previous reports had failed to leave a mark.
“There's a general agreement on what needs to be done but it has been hard to get consensus. We need to change the mindset from ‘what do we need to do' to ‘how do we become excellent'.”
Strategies outlined in the institute's plan were neither new nor unique, he said. “Crucially, we have provided a pathway and a proposed mechanism for action that will work.”
The goal of $62b of export income by 2025 will contribute half of the Government's aim to raise export income to 40 per cent of gross domestic product. It requires compounded growth of 6.7 per cent a year from this year's $24b. If current growth is maintained, exports will instead be $35b.
Strategies are to grow the range of agri-food products, produce new high-value foods, improve delivery chain profitability and become world leaders in environmental sustainability and food safety. Backing this are four “enablers”: to develop “transformational” industry and government leadership; develop strong consumer-driven products; increase the industry's capability and skills; and increase the amount and effectiveness of investment in the industry.
The Agri-Food Board, of “willing” chief executives and senior government officials, would take a “whole of value chain” view of the sector to overcome barriers.
It would pinpoint action needed to maintain knowledge, capital, talent and other resources in the sector, bring together small-to-medium enterprises to share experiences and highlight successes, manage joint research and development, help collaboration between companies to develop markets and to “promote a cultural change from rugged individualism to widespread collaboration and trust”.
Carter said the Government had already done a lot, particularly pledging $590 million to research and innovation in the Primary Growth Partnership programme. “The industry must now act,” he said.
He stopped short of pledging government support for the strategy, but urged the industry to work with the Government to lift export growth. “I encourage you all to look ahead. Please read and distribute widely this report.”
- © Fairfax NZ News
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