‘Everything to Gain’ event shines a light on the future of farming in New Zealand

About 150 people attended the ‘Everything to Gain - maintaining our international market position’ event at the Invercargill Workingmens’ Club on Thursday (December 15) to hear from industry leaders about national and international opportunities. The event was hosted by Thriving Southland and supported by AgResearch.

Thriving Southland CEO, Richard Kyte said: “it’s fantastic to see so many farmers and rural professionals come along to this event in one of the busiest weeks of the year. There was great discussion at the tables, plenty of challenging insights and we’ve received extremely positive feedback.”

The event focused on New Zealand farmers need to be able to continue to tell a credible, substantive and meaningful story around sustainability to remain world-leading food producers, and to reach premium markets.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade deputy secretary trade and economic Vangelis Vitalis spoke about the international context in which New Zealand farmers are operating - drawing on his experience as chief negotiator for the New Zealand European Union Free Trade Agreement.

He said 80-90% of the questions asked by overseas governments about trade related to sustainability - so New Zealand’s story must be credible, substantive and meaningful.

Climate Change Commission Chairperson Rod Carr kept the audience on the edge of their seats with a stimulating presentation around the opportunities ahead of farmers.

“Don’t believe the logic of the ‘we’re little and we don’t count’ argument… we’ll be better off if we reduce our emissions.”

Diversity of land use choices gave Southland farmers more options than most places around New Zealand and the world, Carr said.

Tesco's sustainable agricultural manager Alice Ritchie - a Kiwi living in London - spoke about what global customers actually want and expect, reiterating that New Zealand produce is important in Tesco supermarkets.

“Retailer sustainability strategies are no longer just about climate. Nature, biodiversity, soil, water, human rights, animal welfare and communities are critical,” she said.

New Zealand was perceived internationally to be leading the way in farming practice, and that was an incredibly powerful story that needed to be continually told, Ritchie said.

Sinead Leahy, from the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGRC), shared insights on global research around developing practical and cost-effective approaches to reducing methane emissions from livestock.

“We now know that we can breed for lower emissions animals. We’ve made some great progress in this area,” she said.

She said drivers of change were not just governments, international food production companies were also driving sustainability.

Fonterra director of global sustainability stakeholder affairs and trade Simon Tucker said climate change targets supported by a credible roadmap “will help retain our low carbon position and keep pace with expectations”.

Thriving Southland Chairman Jeff Grant reiterated the point that consumer trends would dictate what farmers were paid for the food they produced.

One of the comments from the floor was that New Zealand farmers can take a bow but can’t rest on their laurels and need to keep pushing.

The event was well received by those that attended and a summary event video will be released on Thriving Southland’s Facebook page this week.


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