The New Zealand primary sector has some way to go to be match fit for the future and the deer industry is no exception, Deer Industry NZ chair Mandy Bell says.
Addressing a capacity audience at the industry’s conference in Ashburton, Bell reported on “some critical conversations” at a recent Fit for a Better World meeting.
“They were not new, but together they were impactful,” Bell said.
She quoted NZ chief trade negotiator Vangelis Vitalis as saying the period of golden weather for the sector is over. There’s demand for forensic evidence backed by data that confirms its environmental actions. Big food and retail are asking for validation of these actions.
Bell said an international food business has said it sees NZ as 10 years behind global trends. Innovation and disruption have long timeframes; high value products must beat the current production cost curve.
No business is sheltered from this change, she said.
“These messages are not getting through clearly. We need to get better at communicating with farmers, understanding the pace of change, challenges and opportunities,” she said.
“We will always be able to find buyers for our products but the most affluent, the most discerning, are who we need to satisfy.
“Their expectations are changing as they seek greater assurance of good animal welfare, good environmental stewardship and greater connection with producers.”
The deer sector is a smaller industry but there are positives in that, it is easier to connect and join up solutions.
“The consumer must be driving our product development, policy and strategy.
“We need to seek out the opportunities of creating value chains that deliver fair value, end to end with revenues that reward producers.”
The industry is different from what it was 10 years ago, Bell said, and will be different again in five years.
“Our farming systems are changing because of the decisions we make. Some of us have swapped hinds for stags, some have shifted deer numbers up or down, some of us have explored other incomes like trees.
“Some of these changes have been in pursuit of higher returns, others have been forced on us by changes to land-use rules.”
Bell said the Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) board’s challenge is to continue its strong advocacy to focus on key areas of opportunity and critical risks for the right reasons as the industry adapts to social and market demands of the future.
To thrive in the future the board has implemented change. It has demanded change from the staff and asked for proactive leadership, for transparency in communication and accountabilities in delivery.”
Bell said increasing production isn’t what makes a thriving industry.
“Thriving comes from confidence and from reinvestment across the value chain.
“There are exciting opportunities that we can capitalise on in the next five years. There is growing interest in healthy and sustainable products and we are well positioned for this.
“We will need to lean in – change takes every one of us to act.”