Brexit a huge opportunity for New Zealand companies
New Zealand agri-businesses are in a position to step up trade and investment in the United Kingdom after its decision to exit the European Union.
The Brexit vote had made it clear how important free trade was going to be for the UK over the next 10-20 years and was why the UK Department of International Trade was back at Fieldays for the first time in 17 years, British High Commissioner Jonathan Sinclair said.
"One of the reasons for being here is that we know agriculture is the backbone of the New Zealand economy, but what I think people know less well is about is how dynamic the agriculture industry and the food and beverage industry is in the UK."
Fieldays last week provided a perfect opportunity to forge those partnerships, he said.
The UK site featured several companies looking for New Zealand suppliers to forge partnerships commercially and in research and development.
The UK agriculture industry is worth £9 billion and has expertise and innovation in precision agriculture and crop protection.
"What we are looking for here is an opportunity across this space to deepen partnerships."
There were also opportunities for New Zealand companies to invest in the UK. When agriculture did well, New Zealand did well and that sentiment was being picked up by British exporters, investors and scientists, he said.
The UK voted to exit the European Union last year and has 22 months to complete that process.
The UK was New Zealand's biggest export destination in the EU with 35 per cent of all of its EU exports going there.
"New Zealand exports more to the UK than to Germany France and Italy put together," Sinclair said.
Exports included red meat, wine and services. He said 44 per cent of all service exports from New Zealand to the EU go to the UK and it was New Zealand's fifth biggest trading partner.
While it was not as high as 40 years ago, it was still substantial. At the New Zealand end, the total stock of UK investment was $77 billion, Sinclair said.
"That's second only to Australia. That's now dropped to around 44 per cent. Even before Brexit and even before we leave, the percentage of our exports to the rest of the world has grown, particularly to the Asia-Pacific region."
British companies were increasingly looking to that part of the world and that included New Zealand for trade and partnership opportunities, particularly in agritech.
There was also the obvious reciprocal benefits of New Zealand food producers been able to supply the UK during the Northern Hemisphere's off season, he said.
"You see in some sectors where UK and New Zealand companies can be operating 24/7, 365 days of the year."
Sinclair said UK supermarkets had told him they wanted to continue to invest in existing partnerships with New Zealand producers.
New Zealand organisations were also looking at taking advantage of the opportunities Brexit was providing by creating partnerships with UK farmers.
"This won't happen today or tomorrow, it will happen over the next few years. Global demand far outstrips supply and UK and New Zealand farmers have a real opportunity to partner together to take advantage of global demand [and] Britain's changing trading status."
Getting UK farmers on board with this message would be critical over the next few years.
"As we negotiate our departure from the EU, there will be many changes to our own policy that we will need to put into effect and agriculture is one of them."
He said it was too early to know what those policies would look like.
Sinclair said UK people were awaiting the Queen's speech that would set out the platform for the next term of parliament for Britain. They had two years to depart from the EU, "and that clock is ticking".
"The first negotiations are due to start on Monday and the Government has said they will go ahead."