Food producers can do without the green shackles when they are driving the post-virus economic recovery

What’s  to   celebrate in the  wake of   the crushing  blow  to   the  economy  delivered   by the Covid-19   pandemic?

Certainly it’s a relief    NZ  has emerged  less  scarred  than other  countries.  Whether the country absorbed   more   economic  pain  than  was necessary will be   debated fiercely.

As   ministers   begin  the  search  to  fill  the economic hole left  by the  collapse of the  tourist industry  and  by  permanent  damage – perhaps –  to sectors like international education,  PM  Jacinda  Ardern  says  she  wants “specific” and “ specially designed” initiatives for  different  industries.

Finance  Minister  Grant  Robertson,  in  talking  of  the  government’s  “strong recovery plan”,   says all ministers have been tasked  with reaching out  to their sector to help develop this plan. Deputy  PM  Winston Peters believes  the  fragility of the highly  interconnected  global  economy has been exposed, and  NZ  must become more  self-reliant.

Political commentator Matthew  Hooton  says  these three  career  politicians have

“ … absolutely no idea of what  sectors of the economy are doomed, which have a future, and whether any  commercial proposal  makes  sense. Add  Economic Development  Phil Twyford to  the mix and it  risks  the  appearance of a circus  run  by  clowns”.

Already  a gap appears to  be opening  up  between  the   Finance  Minister,  who  says NZ  must continue to  trade, and the Deputy  PM,  who  thinks   NZ  should become  more  self-reliant.

As this debate  intensifies,  the risk  is  there  isn’t  sharp enough  focus  on what NZ does best,  or the  kind of thinking  in Wellington to  clear the way for  a fresh drive to  expand  the exports of primary industries,  and as well  increase productivity.

Is there a  minister   who is seeking  to secure the advances of  gene editing  in the development of  new crops  or  the breeding of animals?

And what  about  major  new  irrigation  schemes?  Regional  Development  Minister  Shane  Jones  has  reassigned some PGF  funding  for  new  irrigation  projects,  but  nothing  on the scale of  what the country needs.

A  huge  expansion  in  horticulture, especially   through hydroponics,   should be a  high priority.  The hydroponic  option   could be either  “vertical  farming” being   pioneered in  California  or  Scotland,  or  an expansion  of  greenhouse  use  to grow   fresh produce,  (and possibly  both).

Engineered  plant-based protein  is  already  being  consumed  in the  US  by  fast-food  operators   in their meatless  burgers.

In Europe   sensors and  machine learning  have been introduced to  farming  industries.

Latest  trade  figures  underline    just how  vital  primary  producers  are in the   NZ  export-based  economy.  The country posted its biggest monthly trade surplus in  the last 12  months—$672m in March— as exports held up in the face of the spreading Covid-19 pandemic.

Higher exports of kiwifruit, dairy and meat more than offset a drop in forestry product exports.  Fruit  exports  rose  $145m, a  startling  54%,  milk powder, butter and cheese  $106m  or 7.6%,  and meat  $102m  or 11%.

Exports to  China  and Australia were   down,  but were higher to the US, the EU  and  Japan.

Another   interesting   statistic  came out this  week,  with  the yield for the 2020 harvest  up 16% across the board when compared with 2019.

Particularly encouraging was the fact that fewer hectares were planted in total this season compared  with last (98,090 ha against 104,000), yet substantially greater tonnes were harvested (873,080  against 796,700),

For livestock farmers,  with  a  feed shortage issues  because  of the double hit of drought and Covid-19-related meat plant processing delays, the greater  availability  of feed wheat/barley   will be  a  relief.

In the  post- Covid-19  environment farmers  will be  looking for  the  kind of  business  and other   developments   which   could  accelerate  substantial  production  increases from  their land and  animals.

They  shouldn’t  have  to  be  worrying about  methane   emissions  or    new   freshwater  regulations:  rather,  the government  should be rushing to  relegate   these issues,  particularly  as the Green   Party’s  agenda  has   become   largely  irrelevant   in  the  immediate   post-Covid-19  economy.

3 thoughts on “Food producers can do without the green shackles when they are driving the post-virus economic recovery

  1. “A circus run by clowns” sums it up nicely. The very mention of a government “plan” brings on involuntary spasms. As I have said before the only sensible way forward is for the government to get out of the way of primary producers and processors. They need to eat humble pie and deregulate, starting with gene editing and absurd “environmental” regulations which are being driven by ideology. The Left hate small successful producers and exporters because they are contrary to their core belief that the State should control the means of production. Hence the notion of “plans” developed by Ministers and officials, which are invariably detached from reality and fade into obscurity but provide the illusion that the government is actually in control. They haven’t got a clue.

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