The delegates at the 2016 Red Meat Sector Conference were challenged and entertained by a stimulating range of guest speakers and New Zealand icons the Topp Twins, writes Allan Barber.
Minister for Everything Stephen Joyce gave the welcome speech at the Sunday evening cocktail function and took the opportunity to compliment the industry on its great performance in offsetting the dairy downturn, while encouraging it to work hard on progressing Primary Growth Partnership funded projects with 40 percent of the total already allocated to the red meat sector.
At the formal conference opening the next morning Minister for Food Safety Jo Goodhew made a strong plea for industry government collaboration to protect New Zealand’s food safety and biosecurity reputation. She reinforced her message with the reminder that the consumer is not just interested in product quality and food safety, but also in its provenance, sustainability and the animal welfare standards applied to its production.
Sir Ray Avery gave a stimulating presentation urging businesses to have a 10 year vision, to dare to dream, not to be bound by rules or the status quo and to operate as a team instead of silos. Above all, it is important to put the customer not the product at the centre of product or service development. He gave examples of how keen observation leads to recognising and satisfying a new customer need using disruptive technology, citing Clarence Birdseye inventing flash freezing after fishing in the deepest Canadian winter and Velcro being invented after walking the dog.
The afternoon session began with a three man panel of experts talking about trade, its importance to New Zealand and the progress with reaching trade agreements, including WTO, China, Korea, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and ASEAN and current or planned negotiations with RCEP, Pacific Alliance, Indonesia, EU, Gulf States and India. Former deputy trade secretary Crawford Falconer underlined the importance of focusing on a 10-15 year goal and not taking the eye off that prize, although modifications may be necessary along the way. For instance, TPP may demand a change of tactics, Brexit presents a challenge to reach a separate agreement with the UK, while the USA looks as though it will become more protectionist and China is pursuing greater self-sufficiency.
Special agricultural trade envoy Mike Petersen emphasised the need to become more agile, especially with our food safety and biosecurity programmes. He is also a fervent supporter of developing a marketing strategy which plays to our strengths and heritage which was a theme promoted strongly by Steve Smith, founder of Craggy Range Winery.
The Conference wound up with the Maersk Lines Gala Dinner at which minister for primary industries Nathan Guy rounded out the government’s presence with a very positive message of support to the delegates. The Topp Twins made sure they went to bed in a very cheerful frame of mind.
Allan Barber is a meat industry commentator. He can be reached directly at email@example.com.