The agri-food sector needs to act now to ensure the world starts hearing the great stories we have to tell.
This year's 2018 Agribusiness Agenda: We need to tell you our stories calls on the sector to tell honest stories relating to how products are grown, processed and distributed, to highlight the many positive attributes inherent in the products we grow and deliver to the world.
KPMG's Global Head of Agribusiness, Ian Proudfoot, said "the last year has not played out how industry leaders expected. Whereas the 2017 Agribusiness Agenda was outward looking and focused on the opportunities in global markets, this year the Agenda is directed towards a range of domestic issues that dominated our conversations with industry leaders".
"It has been a challenging year for the industry, where the mainstream narrative has been predominately negative despite agri-food continuing to dominate New Zealand's export revenues," says Proudfoot. The negativity presents risks to the industry's social license to operate and its ability to command a premium price in global markets.
"Articulating the attributes inherent in New Zealand products will provide verifiable stories to counter those based on perceptions that have dominated the conversation for far too long."
See the 2018 Agribusiness Agenda here
See the priority results here
Given the discovery of Mycoplasma bovis and Myrtle Rust in the last year, as well as the ever present threat from the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, it is unsurprising that maintaining world class biosecurity was again rated the highest ranked priority for industry leaders, recording its highest ever priority score in the survey. "There was a clear message that the speed of response to Mycoplasma bovis has been compromised by farmers not fulfilling their obligations under NAIT," said Proudfoot. "This highlights that managing biosecurity risks must become enshrined as part of the day to day responsibility of everybody that works in the agri-food sector".
The central role that environmental degradation and water quality played in last year’s election featured strongly in many of our conversations, with concern over the way the issue is constantly presented as the primary sector’s problem. "Whether we like it or not, every New Zealander has contributed to the degradation of our environment, waterways and beaches. Addressing these issues needs whole of community responses. Agri-food sector leaders recognise they have a major role to play, demonstrated by the significant rise in priority attached to restoring native ecosystems in the survey [largest rising priority, up 8 places to be ranked 9th]. But, they also recognise that they can't solve the problems alone". The Agenda also highlights the need to ensure land use plans are optimised in response to community requirements and market expectations.
The challenges faced securing labour to support growth was another common theme in our conversations with industry leaders. Uncertainties around being able to recruit and retain migrant labour and the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme have left many organisations facing labour shortages. "Leaders are very supportive of ensuring New Zealanders have the skills to access the wide variety of employment opportunities available across the industry but we need to recognise that this takes time. Current policy settings are putting at risk the ability of organisations across the primary sector to complete the work that needs to be done today," Proudfoot commented.
The Coalition Government's decision to sign the CPTTPA agreement was welcomed, however concern was expressed about the stability of the global trade system, particularly with the Trump Administration appearing to take the view that a good deal can only be one where America is the winner. "Leaders were concerned that should trade wars eventuate between the US and China or Europe it will be increasingly difficult for New Zealand to maintain a neutral position, which could put market access at risk to one or more of our major markets".
The infrastructure challenges in rural areas also featured predominantly in our conversations this year. In relation to connectivity the call was clear, it is no longer acceptable for rural people to be treated as second class digital citizens; they have the right to expect the same levels of connectivity all other New Zealanders expect, especially given the critical role technology should be playing in maintaining quality of life and supporting businesses to prosper.
"It was notable that the reliability and cost of electricity networks in rural areas featured in a number of discussions for the first time." Proudfoot noted. "Energy is always a topic of conversation internationally but has never been raised in our Agenda Roundtables before".
Contributors highlighted the increases they have been experiencing in energy costs, something they expect to continue, and challenged whether ageing distribution networks are sufficiently safe and reliable.
The Agenda also analyses key learnings from recent agri-food innovation events in San Francisco, which highlighted the need to be constantly alert to change through the development of networks, partnerships and collaborations