Posts Tagged ‘MPI’

Good trade news for red meat – let’s hope it happens quickly

March 30, 2017

The visit by Chinese Premier Li Kequiang has been very positive in several ways for New Zealand’s trade agreements, except for those people who are anti free trade or closer engagement with China (Winston Peters?). After the excitement about the announcement in April last year during the John Key led trade mission, progress on chilled red meat access to China and an upgraded FTA appeared to have gone onto the back burner, until now. (more…)

Meat exporters and farmers must get used to change

November 22, 2016

As if Brexit wasn’t a big enough shock, the US presidential election has really set the cat amongst the pigeons. Commentators of all nationalities and political inclinations have literally no idea how a Trump presidency will affect the world order, from trade agreements and global interest rates to immigration or deportation, let alone internal security issues and relationships with other nations. (more…)

Irish approach may be better than New Zealand’s

June 26, 2016

The Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s (DAFM) 10 year strategy report named Foodwise 2025 contains a lot of the same features as MPI’s ambition to double agricultural exports over a similar timeframe. (more…)

Address to MIRINZ workshop – How and why research is important for the future

March 19, 2016
  1. Themes

 

The three main themes for this workshop are:

 

  1. Added value products focusing on key points of differentiation in NZ meat products with a research emphasis on credible health and nutritional benefits.
  2. Value from quality – research outcomes that will enable the red meat sector to meet increasing demand for high value premium meat products in existing and new markets.
  • Provenance and food assurance – research from fork to farm to ensure that exports are safe, of superior quality with defendable provenance and attractive to consumers.

(more…)

NAIT satisfaction with progress suggests complacency

March 2, 2016

In July last year I raised the problem of accurately identifying and recording all cattle movements, citing the issues experienced by a farmer friend who had no success in reconciling stock on his farm with NAIT’s records. The farmer had contacted NAIT which eventually got back to him, but the process of reconciliation was several weeks out of date. (more…)

MPI’s SOPI report suggests it is on different planet

December 21, 2015

When I read the headline forecast in the December update of the Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries report, my initial reaction was “they must be joking, what planet are they on?” After a slightly more in depth study of their analysis, I am still baffled. (more…)

MPI’s food safety responsibility still causing major problems

December 11, 2015

In January this year I wrote a column which argued the Primary Industries Ministry risked losing focus on two of its core responsibilities, namely food safety and biosecurity, as a direct consequence of merging MAF, NZ Food Safety Authority and Bio-Security New Zealand into a single mega government agency.

I cited the Fonterra whey protein botulism scare as an example of the new agency dropping the ball.

The WPC80 report into that incident stated “overall there was a lack of commitment to ensuring readiness to deal with a food safety event” quoting a senior official as acknowledging nobody had taken ownership of food safety.

The report went on to say the gap had since been closed.

Recent events like the Hepatitis A cases from frozen berries from China, antibiotic-resistant campylobacter in chickens distributed by three of the four largest North Island producers and last year’s outbreak of gastrointestinal bug yersinia suggest the gap remains open.

In the meantime, MPI maintains weeks or even months of secrecy before it discloses information about the identity of suppliers or the source of the problem.

Even worse, sometimes, as in the case of the yersinia outbreak, the named culprit is found not to be the source after all.

I argued at the time MPI’s four key areas of focus, as listed in its 2014 annual report, were as follows: maximise export opportunities, increase sustainable resource use, improve sector productivity and protect from biological risk.

It seemed then and still seems staggering that the most important role of all, protection from biological risk, should come last instead of first in this list of priorities.

In case people think this is just semantics, consider the benefits of the previous structure when NZFSA was split out from MAF in 2002 and run as a sole-purpose government department between 2006 and 2011.

NZ’s food safety reputation was at an all time high among our trading partners and I struggle to remember any serious food disease outbreaks, although I might not be entirely correct.

The food safety performance of the red meat sector still demonstrates the excellence of the standards put in place under MAF and NZFSA.

 

Unfortunately, the performance of Bio-Security NZ under MAF control was not as impressive during the first decade of the 21 st century, as kiwifruit growers hit by the Psa virus would testify.

The value proposition for the creation of MPI argued there was a risk of divergence in areas of regulatory policy and standard-setting, cost recovery and international standards.

Given NZ’s unique biosecurity and trade needs, the regulatory programme was not considered optimal for creating economic advantage for NZ.

However, the most important point of protecting NZ’s borders from biosecurity risks and consumers from food safety events appears to have been taken as a given, rather than disciplines requiring single-minded focus.

The National Government’s main objective has been to achieve greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness of outcomes by means of structural changes but there is a danger this focus might result in the baby being thrown out with the bath water.

I have read one comment which calls for the responsibility for food safety to be handed back to the Ministry of Health because its sole focus is public health.

The same writer also argues MPI has a conflict of interest between its priority to protect consumers and protection of food producers.

I would argue MPI’s main focus is not on producers but on economic gain for NZ, as shown by its first three areas of focus – export growth, sector productivity and sustainable resource use.

It is very easy to claim this is absolutely consistent with maintaining first-class food safety and bio-security but the point is MPI does have a conflict of interest.

Which of the four areas of focus should they concentrate on?

If the Government insists on doubling exports by 2025 while improving sector productivity and resource allocation, it isn’t difficult to see where food safety and bio-security sit in the queue.

I spoke to Labour’s primary sector spokesman Damian O’Connor about this issue in January.

He was adamant MPI is too big and has a conflict of interests between its regulatory and compliance responsibilities as well as its goal of maximising exports while the increasing quest for trade freedom is at variance with the protection of NZ’s biologically-based economy and reputation.

He wanted to see separate food safety and biosecurity agencies established outside MPI.

 

Unfortunately, I can’t see this happening before the next election at the earliest but it looks to me more and more as though we should evaluate this as an option.

At the very least we should assess the risks to NZ health and reputation of continuing as we are.

MPI risks loss of focus on food safety and biosecurity

May 26, 2015

Most people would almost certainly see the primary role of Ministry for Primary Industries as the protection of New Zealand’s biosecurity, food safety and primary production. The creation of MPI was designed to meet a number of objectives, one of which, probably the most important, must surely have been to ensure a world class agency to deliver this priority. (more…)

Election result should be good for agriculture

October 1, 2014

Beef+Lamb NZ’s Manifesto which was issued before the Election contains a very concise summary of the red meat sector’s wish list for the next three years, although it doesn’t necessarily include the big elephant in the room of meat industry restructure. But the National government’s attitude on that one is well known and unlikely to change until the industry can present an agreed solution favoured by a majority of industry participants.

 

I contacted Nathan Guy, at present acting Minister of Agriculture, to find out the government’s priorities for the next term and how they dovetailed with the B+LNZ and Federated Farmers manifestos. He responded in some detail, stating satisfaction with the strong support received from rural New Zealand which gave confidence the last government was very much on the right track.

 

Major initiatives would be RMA reform, a strong policy requirement of the Prime Minister, continuing focus on strengthening biosecurity protection, investment in science and innovation which has increased 70% since 2007/8, attracting more young people into careers in agriculture, more free trade deals, an increase in water storage and developing the potential of Maori agriculture.

 

This all seems pretty consistent with the two manifestos, although there will never be enough money to go round all the priorities listed. Feds’ push for $600 million additional investment in science over the next three years with specific reference to the three Centres of Research Excellence which missed out on the last funding round may be a leap too far. $1.5 billion is already committed for next year with a large proportion going towards the primary industries through universities, the Callaghan Institute, the Sustainable Farming Fund, AgResearch and Scion.

 

PGP funding of $708 million has been allocated across 18 different projects with matching industry investment with an assessed potential to generate returns of up to $11 billion by 2025. My impression from Guy was very much the intention to proceed with present policies which all appear to be on track to deliver the desired outcomes.

 

My first question to B+LNZ’s chairman James Parsons was whether he saw any change to current policy settings following National’s re-election as well as whether there were any specific areas where more action and investment were needed.

 

He is very committed to the success of the PGP programme, citing the Red Meat Profit Partnership as a prime example of the benefits from providing a platform from which nine partners – six processors, two banks and B+LNZ – could combine forces; there was no way this would have happened without government funding.

 

One of Parsons’ main concerns is to achieve the goal of the People Powered report produced in July to attract an average of 5000 people a year into the industry. However as the report shows over the next 10 years, the most important factor will not be the absolute number of entrants, but the change in the make up of the workforce. In 2012 44% of the workforce had a tertiary qualification, but this will rise to 62% by 2025.

 

Government response has been to raise subsidies for agricultural degrees at tertiary level or higher, as well as looking to improve information and material available to careers advisers. I suspect this will not be nearly enough on its own to achieve the required rate of increase. It remains a mystery why a career in agriculture, New Zealand’s largest export sector by a country mile, continues to be less attractive than a whole range of other less exciting and productive choices.

 

Other priorities for B+LNZ include environmental policy with a sensible discussion about nutrient allocation, reduced regulation where appropriate, and negotiation of improved trade access agreements with important trading partners where New Zealand is at a disadvantage. Specific examples of priority agreements on tariffs which must be pursued vigorously are Korea and Japan, particularly on beef access, where progress has been slow.

Japan’s commitment to the TPP has stalled over dairy access, while Australia has a sub optimal FTA which provides for reducing beef tariffs, while New Zealand beef tariffs into Korea will be higher than those enjoyed by Canada and Australia from 2015. Non tariff barriers on Chinese imports of beef and green runners and beef to Indonesia are also an issue in need of urgent resolution.

 

Parsons corrected me when I raised the necessity of introducing NAIT for sheep if we are serious about controlling disease outbreaks such as Foot and Mouth. This would impose a conservatively estimated cost of $80 million on sheep farmers to track stock in the event of an incursion of what is a wind borne disease. NAIT is more relevant to food safety than biosecurity problems. An infinitely preferable mechanism for tracking livestock would be the mandated introduction of electronic Animal Status Declarations to avoid the use of paper records, impossible to trace quickly and comprehensively.

 

One topic notable by its absence from the manifesto is a Government Industry Agreement with the meat industry, already signed with the kiwifruit and bee industries. B+LNZ suggests road testing a GIA document for an outbreak of FMD before the industry would be willing to make a commitment.

 

On balance the new government’s agricultural policies appear to correspond to the wishes of the red meat sector which is a good start, built on the solid foundation of the last three years’. At a time when global demand for beef and sheepmeat is robust, this is a good time to emphasise the sector’s importance to our economy.

Guy prepared to help, but unwilling to interfere

March 26, 2014

Nathan Guy gave a very positive speech to Beef + Lamb NZ’s AGM on Saturday which covered three major points: what the government is doing for farmers, his vision for the red meat sector and thoughts on the discussions about industry structure.

 

Obviously, given MPI’s bullish view of agricultural exports, the Minister was extremely positive about economic performance. However he was at pains to point out the government’s role as an enabler, citing his focus on biosecurity resources, trade negotiations for market access, and investment in research.

 

He began by referring to his intention to strengthen resources at the border and to establish Government Industry Agreements (GIA) with various sectors which will ultimately involve the private sector in sharing the costs of biosecurity; different sectors are at various stages of negotiation on this issue.

 

Presumably the problem lies in negotiating just how much responsibility an individual sector is willing to accept when the border is the entry point for disease incursions. If the government agency fails to control this adequately, the result could be catastrophic. Foot and Mouth is an obvious example.

 

The PGPs are a major investment focus for this government with up to $700 million being invested in 17 new projects, while $400 million will be directed at irrigation infrastructure for water storage. Guy also drew attention to MPI’s work to improve the productivity of Maori land of which only 20% is in full production; this could lift exports by $8 billion.

 

He then moved to a positive assessment of the red meat sector, gilding the lily somewhat by claiming the same amount of sheepmeat now came from less than half the flock size. My own rough calculations indicate the flock has reduced from 72 million to 31 million (132%) in 30 years while the average lamb weight has increased by no more than 45%. To be fair I haven’t compared export volumes from 30 years ago.

 

He also gave the example of China as an emerging, fast growing market for New Zealand red meat which has dramatically altered the landscape over the last two years.

 

The Minister acknowledged that all isn’t rosy in the red meat sector, but change would be achieved through innovation, collaboration and new market opportunities, not by doing more of the same. He cited innovative PGP projects into which government and industry have committed $326 million which is expected to generate $2 billion benefits from a wide range of activities, including farm management systems and new products.

 

It’s not entirely clear how these benefits are calculated or defined, but presumably MPI as PGP gatekeeper and monitor can provide the basis of calculation.

 

Guy was adamant about the potential for the meat industry to be successful, as opposed to the view we often hear from MIE and others that the industry is doomed. However he also made it very clear it is not government’s role to take a heavy hand and legislate an industry restructure. Instead it is up to the various parties to agree on a solution which represents the views of a substantial proportion of the meat industry across the whole sector.

 

In conclusion he cast doubt on the value of the summit proposed by MIE unless the participants were prepared to engage and collaborate. The last thing anybody would want is another talkfest.

 

Therefore to summarise the Minister’s address to the AGM, agriculture is doing exceptionally well, the red meat sector has its challenges, but is performing well, future potential is good, and the government will be supportive, if a majority of the sector can agree on the change it wants. So in the short term nothing much will change and the participants will continue to operate from their own entrenched positions.

Let’s hope export prices can withstand the strength of our dollar and continue to provide sheep and beef farmers in the meantime with rewards which will avoid the transitional exit to dairy support or a terminal exodus to dairy conversions until the PGP projects come to fruition.