A new industry-driven vehicle to drive New Zealand’s food and fibre industries to the future and a review of the red meat sector’s Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) programmes are on the cards for next year.
New minister of agriculture and biosecurity Damien O’Connor spoke at the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Food & Fibre Innovation ‘Vision to Action’ Conference held at the TSB Arena in Wellington at the end of November.
The vocal critic of the PGP programmes in the run up to last year’s elections, acknowledged the “huge progress” that has been made in the Primary Growth Partnership programmes and the knowledge gained by the primary sector. PGP has incentivised companies to do things that might not necessarily have been done, he said.
“Companies have taken the risk to invest 50-60 percent for those projects to give us new opportunities … coming up with ideas that no one else has thought of.”
He told delegates that he stood by his earlier comments on the programmes and the need for a focus on return on investment. Spending needs to be prioritised, and, while it will be business as usual for the time being, the PGP programme will need to be reviewed next year. O’Connor also called for a lift in the primary sector’s funding of research and development.
“Because if you look at the percentage spend on R&D it’s pathetic. There are a few exceptions, but not many. Until we lift that level of R&D as a manner of normal business then we’re going to languish in my view,” he said.
The Minister said he was happy to help the sector arrive at a vision for the future, “and work on the pathways to a better future, taking into account all the wisdom that we’ve gained through PGP.
“If we stop here and don’t continue with the investment and the vision, then we might have made an incremental gain but we may not be better off as a nation in 50 years time.”
Calls for industry-driven vehicle to a new primary sector vision
Greenlea Premier Meats managing director Tony Egan also spoke at the conference on behalf of the food and fibre industry working group. This is made up of 14 primary sector organisations: Beef + Lamb NZ (B+LNZ), Synlait, Greenlea Premier Meats, Scion, Federated Farmers, Fonterra, Kono, Sanford, Plant and Food Research, Wakatu, KPMG, Te Puna Farms, The Plus Group and directors of food and fibre companies or organisations.
He said the group had collaborated and proactively considered longer-term time-frames for New Zealand – horizons one, two and three – over three sessions.
“We agreed that we should put pressure on industry and on government to agree a vehicle to enable this vision to develop, that we should help define an outline of what it means for New Zealand and that between us we should articulate that vision and put it into action, not just words,” he said, challenging the Minister to help the sector create a pan-sector vision for New Zealand food and fibre’s collective future.
“This is within your reach, the leadership we need is needed now and it could define your term in government if you could enable us to define ourselves on the world stage in a common way that takes New Zealand well into the future,” he said.
The vehicle – an industry driven group pulling things together and giving an over-arching vision so all the components can start working to a common future direction – needs a facilitator.
Egan believes New Zealand has a window of two to three years where, “We can get ahead of the curve again. Where we can start defining those future horizons on our own terms.”
Red meat sector’s investment in its future
The Omega Lamb Project, Food Plus, the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP), Marbled Beef, Farm IQ and the deer industry’s Passion2Profit programmes were all represented in the impressive range of work from 22 programmes exhibited at Primary Growth Partnership Expo running alongside the conference. These represent an investment of $350,000 in the future of the red meat sector – 55 percent from industry and 45 percent from government through MPI.
Most of the programmes, funded jointly by industry and MPI, are seven years in duration. Of those, Farm IQ which was set up in 2010 was the first to reach completion in June. The newest red meat PGP, the Omega Lamb Project is just reaching the end of its second year. Foodplus led by ANZCO and Marbled Beef led by First Light Foods are five years through their programmes, while RMPP and P2P both set up in 2015 will reach their half way points next year.
According to Deer Industry NZ, an external reviewer will assess how the P2P programme is tracking toward the outcomes as contracted in the original business case. The programme is made up of two inter-linked projects: marketing premium venison and market-led production. These projects aim to correct the mismatch between venison production and demand in traditional markets, while progressively developing new markets that demand quality venison at chilled prices all year around.
The focus of the one-day conference, facilitated by former Beef + Lamb NZ chief executive Dr Scott Champion, was ‘Innovation – From Vision to Action’. Overseas and home-grown speakers covered a range of topics looking at how business engages in innovation across its supply chain from inputs, to how products are processed, packaged, distributed and consumed.