Tour puts NZ agriculture on world stage

SVEN HERSELMAN
Last updated 05:00 07/08/2014

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Marlborough Garlic general manager John Murphy has returned from a two-month overseas tour with a fresh appreciation for the high regard the rest of the world has for Kiwi produce.

Murphy, who was awarded the prestigious Nuffield Scholarship, was on the tour with nine other Nuffield scholars visiting farming industries in Europe, Asia and the United States. He and the other scholars, from Australia, England and Ireland, got to see first hand how farmers in different countries are plying their trade, from production through to market.

A highlight for Murphy was their time in the Netherlands, where the innovative techniques and commercial focus of the industry was hugely inspiring, he said.

"They don't have nearly as much space as we do, so they have to do more with less," he said.

The trip was taxing, and a busy schedule meant there was little time to relax. This also meant the group spent a large amount of time together, but Murphy found this to be where he learned the most.

"The group was mostly Aussies. There was some good banter, and we definitely became very close and learned a lot from each other," he said.

Despite the wide variety of techniques and innovations they saw during the trip, Murphy found farming abroad and in New Zealand to be surprisingly similar.

The two issues that troubled the industry most were water availability and labour shortages.

"Even in a country like India, with such a massive population they still battle to get enough labour, which I found incredible. There seems to be a stigma around working on the land - people would rather move into the cities."

The strength of the New Zealand and even Marlborough brands overseas was also surprisingly strong, Murphy said.

In a Qatar supermarket they spoke to a women buying an expensive New Zealand leg of lamb.

"She said she buys it because it's the best.

"The pure New Zealand brand is really selling the products for us. I saw evidence of New Zealand brands all over during the trip. I was even surprised at how many people know where Marlborough is," Murphy said.

As part of the scholarship he will embark on a solo overseas trip from late October and must complete a report, for which he has chosen to look at how good farming practices can be turned into big business without losing their essence.

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- The Marlborough Express

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