Comment: they came, they saw, they went …

Red meat was amongst the smorgasbord of New Zealand agribusiness presented to international agricultural journalists in Hamilton last week. Over 150 journalists from around the world were there for the annual World Congress of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ), hosted by the New Zealand Guild of Agricultural Journalists & Communicators, to hear about NZ Agribusiness: Our Life. Our Story.

IFAJ 2015 delegates.

In a programme designed to present a snapshot of New Zealand agriculture and its innovation over the four day event (14 to 18 October), in addition to official IFAJ business, delegates were able to hear from top quality Kiwi speakers and to visit a range of farms, research establishments and companies organised in five topic streams according to their interests – red meat, dairy, horticultural, science and technology and general.

141015. IFAJ World Congress 2015. Hamilton New Zealand . Opening night dinner .From left,NZ Minister for Primary Industry Hon Nathan Guy, Tim Mackle Dairy NZ CEO and Markus Rediger World President of IFAJ
From left: NZ Minister for Primary Industry Hon Nathan Guy, Tim Mackle chief executive of principal sponsor Dairy NZ and Swiss journalist Markus Rediger World President of IFAJ.

Keynote speakers included Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy, who spoke well at the Opening Night dinner covering topics such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the importance of biosecurity to New Zealand. Having admitted it was the largest number of journalists he had ever addressed, aside from Prince William releasing a Kiwi at Kapiti Island, he disappeared into a media scrum after an excellent and widely applauded positive address, which was deemed “so refreshing to hear from an agriculture minister”.

Minister for Trade Tim Groser’s off the cuff comments about TPP and other free-trade negotiations were well appreciated. Waikato University professor of agribusiness Jacqueline Rowarth’s presentation was described as “absolutely world class” by several delegates as was the presentation from KPMG’s head of global agribusiness Ian Proudfoot. Both of the latter were setting the scene for ‘Our Life. Our Story’

Meat Industry Association chairman Bill Falconer was the meat industry’s keynote speaker, presenting a background about how the New Zealand meat industry is meeting market needs and current issues.

Silver Fern Farms (SFF) had them all over for a barbecue dinner. This included the meat processor’s delicious beef, lamb and venison and was hosted at the beautiful Te Aroha racecourse, following a tour of the SFF Te Aroha plant giving them an appreciation of the scale of meat processing.

Smaller groups heard from 14 senior managers speaking on behalf of various organisations. These included Greenlea Premier Meats’ Tony Egan. He spoke about Greenlea’s development and how it handles halal meat production. Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ)’s Tony Pearse talked about the his industry’s “Hindsight to Foresight’ efforts to rejuvenate deer farming.

Overall, delegates visited 36 farms, research establishments and companies in the Waikato region. Eight Waikato sheep, beef and deer farms were visited in the red meat streams. These included: Charlie Lea’s multi-faceted agricultural operation; James Bailey’s Hereford stud and sheep farm; Ian Scott’s Oraka Deer Park; specialist calf rearer Wayne Derrick; the Alexanders’ farm at Hobbiton; Colin Brown’s boutique beef Lake Farm; Rob Taylor’s Plasnewyd farm; and Bill Garland at Rahiri.

Progressive Meats hosted a small group taking part in a pre-Congress tour of the North Island, which also visited Craig Hickson’s Anawai sheep, beef and deer station, amongst others. Participants in the South Island tour also had an opportunity to visit the Avery’s Bonavaree station and learn about drought resilience, drop in on Lincoln University and visit a high country merino station in their itinerary.

It was New Zealand’s long over-due turn to host the full World Congress and the relatively small New Zealand Guild of Agricultural Journalists and Communicators (GAJC) team, led by Congress organising committee chair Hugh Stringleman and Guild secretary Sue Miller, took on the ambitious task of preparing for the event over three years ago. Delegates who took up the opportunity to attend came from 27 countries. This included the biggest contingent from the US, followed closely behind by Canada, Australia, Europea, Scandinavia and Japan, down to other member countries such as Nepal, Indonesia, Croatia and the Philippines.

Results are already starting to trickle in with the IFAJ World Vice-President, Canadian Owen Roberts, writing in his Real Agriculture blog ‘TPP: Forgiving, but not forgetting, New Zealand‘ yesterday,

” …having caught a brief glimpse of Kiwi culture and agriculture, I suggest we look at New Zealand differently. I say we regard it as a teacher and maybe even an ally, and not as a conniving thief stealing our heritage and our way of life.”

The breadth of activity was reflected in the IFAJ 2015 Facebook page, Twitter stream @IFAJ2015NZ and hashtag #ifaj2015, which were running hot during their visit.

The organisers have thanked the sponsors, without whom the event could not have taken place. These were: principal sponsor Dairy NZ, major sponsors Fonterra, AGMARDT, KPMG, MPI, Gallagher and NZX Agri, to add to Zespri, Silver Fern Farms, Ballance Agri-Nutrients, Horticulture NZ, Beef + Lamb NZ, DINZ, Monsanto, plus Jim Burns, Whittakers Chocolate and PickMee Apples.

For more information visit IFAJ 2016 will take place in Germany.

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