Agriculture best trade advantage, says new green growth report

A new independent report launched yesterday in Auckland and Wellington looking into ‘green growth opportunities’ for New Zealand, says that agriculture is where New Zealand has the best trade advantage. It also says that two of the best green growth export opportunities for New Zealand are sustainable, efficient agricultural products and services and biotechnology. Both are within the meat industry’s domain.

Green Growth: Opportunities for New Zealand, commissioned by a group of business thought leaders Pure Advantage together with the Green Growth Trust, takes a macroeconomic look at  New Zealand’s green growth economic opportunities within a global context. It identifies 21 ways the country can capitalise in a global shift to greener growth and includes specific recommendations for forestry, electricity, transport, agriculture, fisheries and tourism.The report has been prepared  by internationally renowned economists Vivid Economics of London in conjunction with the University of Auckland Business School.

Within a six-point summary, the report says that New Zealand could benefit from global green investment patterns in two main ways: by exporting to nations investing in green goods and services and by importing new technology and ideas to create efficiencies at home. It says that New Zealand should focus on sectors where it already has an advantage or where its natural capital is best suited to capturing future advantages and that the best green growth export opportunities for New Zealand include sustainable efficient agricultural products and services, biotechnology, geothermal energy and forestry, including second-generation bio-fuels, the report says.

New Zealand’s agricultural advantage, one of seven identified by the report, is where there is the biggest trade advantage.

“The future of farming will belong to those nations who own and adopt water efficient, energy efficient, low carbon and low resource intensity input technologies and practices. New Zealand is performing well now and with an integrated strategy to ramp up investment and commercialisation of sustainable and efficient agricultural R&D and commercialise our intellectual property, we’ll make sure we stay ahead,” Pure Advantage says.

Increasing R&D to the OECD average and high level support for New Zealand’s brand has been applauded by Professor Jacqueline Rowarth, professor of agribusiness at the University of Waikato. “The main recommendations in the report are spot on,” she says. “Anything less is economic treason.”

“People in agriculture already know this. They also know that farmers are the biggest investors in R&D in NZ, through taxes, levies and as shareholders of co-operative companies. Of further importance is that farmers take up innovations rapidly as shown by the Statistics NZ productivity data and the University of Auckland IBM Innovation Index – the primary sector leads.

“The result, as highlighted in the UK last week under headlines such as ‘buy NZ lamb to save the planet’, is that NZ production systems are efficient in terms of greenhouse gas production per unit of milk or meat,” she said, adding that water-use efficiency is also good where new technologies, such as precision irrigators are used. “Water quality is also rather better than in other developed countries.”

Affording the new technologies will be difficult for farmers with little money forecast for farmers to reinvest into their operations this year, she notes. “The challenge continues to be explaining to society that farmers can do what is required, but the impact will be increased costs of food production and that will lead to increased prices in the supermarket. Government leadership supporting agriculture, as well as the brand, is required.”

Pure Advantage is the brainchild of fitness industry pioneer Phillip Mills. Other Trustees, who have also provided charitable funding for the initiative, are Sir George Fistonich, Rob Fyfe, Chris Liddell, Phillip Mills, Jeremy Moon, Rob Morrison (chairman), Geoff Ross, Justine Smyth, Mark Solomon, Sir Stephen Tindall, and Joan Withers. Founding trustees also included the late Lloyd Morrison and Sir Paul Callaghan. The secretariat is managed by Rob Morrison (Chairman), Duncan Stewart (Chief Executive) and Hannah Wills (Project Manager).

More information and a full copy of the report is available at the Pure Advantage website.

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