Competing in premium markets means added compliance for food producers
Farmers that complain about compliance costs should remember who their consumers are, Food Safety Minister David Bennett says.
Consumers were at the top end of the market and competing in that space meant farmers had to accept there were tougher demands, he told Waikato Federated Farmers members at the organisation's recent annual meeting.
The Hamilton East MP, Minister for Veteran Affairs and Associate Minister for Immigration and Transport was the meeting's guest speaker.
He said overseas consumers were not concerned about how compliance costs impacted on farmers.
"They just want to know that the food that they are getting has the highest food safety, they want to know that it is produced in a way that is the most protected for the animals involved, they want to know that you have the highest practices of labour and they want to know that you are a good producer."
He said New Zealand food producers could not afford to be put in a position where their brand integrity was put into question.
They were among the best in the world but to stay in that market they had to comply with top end social and commercial requirements.
"If you look at any product out there from around the world, whether it's a BMW or whatever, if you are in the top end of the market people demand quality, they demand security, and they demand it is done under the working conditions that are required and we are in a western highly developed country that does have those rules."
For farmers, that was the future and it might mean they had to pay more in their costs to get to that premium market.
"We are after the premium price, not the commodity price," he said.
New Zealand produced enough food for about 40 million people and there were about four billion people on the planet who had the income levels to buy New Zealand food.
"They have a choice where they get their food from. Their countries are actively going out and promoting their own supply, and you are looking at producing for the top end of that market."
Premium consumers here and overseas were increasingly focused on how their food was produced and New Zealand farmers were well positioned to respond to the demands, he said.
"We have good standards of food safety, animal welfare, labour practices and environmental requirements."
Demand for New Zealand-made infant formula in China was an example of this.
"To maintain access to these consumers and achieve a premium price for all of these products, we need to ensure that we maintain these standards. We also need to tailor the narrative around our products to target specific consumer groups and needs."
He denied that extra compliance would see farmers go broke.
"We have the strongest farmers in the world, they have been able to adapt over many generations to different challenges."