OPINION: If we were living in earlier times our country would be a prime target for invasion and takeover.
Our combination of natural wealth and small population would put us square in the sights of a bigger, aggressive nation looking to expand. We would be Gaul to Caesar's Rome, England to Canute's Danes.
Our luck in settling a fertile country watered by plentiful rain is envied by many.
As the foodbowl of the South Pacific we are eyed by countries worried about their ability to feed a population growing in numbers and in quality of life. But they show no inclination to invade, thank goodness.
The paranoid among us would point to a takeover by stealth through the purchase of farmland, but I don't see that.
We are beneficiaries of the generations who fought to ensure a country like ours could thrive unmolested. And, befitting such enlightened times, we share our wealth with those who would formerly have enslaved us. It's called trade.
We don't have a lot of food to trade, but it is of the highest quality. Rightly, we have recognised that we can make the most of our natural resources by feeding the more discerning among the world's consumers.
We satisfy their need for the tenderest and tastiest beef, lamb and venison, crispest and sweetest fruit, freshest and cleanest vegetables, the most delicious salmon, mussels and oysters, and a reliable source of milk products.
It all comes backed by a story – of hard-working, technologically savvy, environmentally sound custodians of our lakes, rivers, mountains and green countryside who produce safe, healthy food from cared-for, disease-free animals.
OK, the story sometimes has holes in it, but we know where they are and we're working to fix them. How hard and how effectively is open to argument.
But it is reassuring to see regular reports that predict a bright future stretching out ahead.
The latest of these is from the Primary Industries Ministry.
Its annual situation and outlook is always a positive document, predicting a steady rise for all parts of the sector for at least four years ahead, based on cold, hard facts.
However, even such solidly based predictions can be wrong. In recent years, unexpected droughts and fickle exchange rates have thrown spanners in the works.
The forecasts are what would happen if we didn't have unpredictable weather and exchange rates. A slightly farcical situation, but the forecasts are valid, nonetheless.
We have to have an idea of what our potential is, what will happen if everything goes right. The country and businesses need this to plan ahead.
And it doesn't hurt to remind people of what a good job these industries are doing for the economy.
In this year's report, such lifts are predicted as a milksolids payout of $7.83/kg, a lamb schedule at $6.27/kg, prime beef at $4.98/kg, wool at $5.85/kg, gold kiwifruit at $16.20 a tray and apples at $28 a carton, all by 2016.
It would be unfair to criticise the ministry over such precise predictions. The exchange rate is the key to accuracy and the ministry has taken the Treasury's forecast of a US62c kiwi by 2016 as its guide.
Coincidentally, back in 2008 the ministry was predicting a 62c kiwi for 2012.
The ministry tells of how agriculture, horticulture, forestry and fishing are benefiting from increased trade with Asia.
The outlook for dairy and forestry in particular depends to a large extent on the Chinese economy maintaining its momentum. It talks about how Chinese investment and private spending are strong because of solid corporate profits and rising wages, but warns of a possible slowing in bank loans.
In other parts of Asia, such as Japan, trade is overshadowed by worries about not being able to feed everyone.
Yet it could have all been so different.
If New Zealand had become a colony of a victorious Japan at the end of World War II, trade would not have been an option. China would also have been part of that empire and even if, over the years, it may have shaken off the yoke, defeated Japan and taken over its colonies there would be no guarantee it would act any differently.
I guess we have to be thankful the ministry hasn't allowed for that in its predictions.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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