Thursday, April 25, 2024

More food needs more sustainability, APEC forum told

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New Zealand needs to press its claims for food production sustainability through the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) forum as a precursor to trade talks. After covid-19’s devastating effects on economies in the region, the resiliency of food production has taken on new meaning, speakers at a Fonterra-hosted Live with Business session of APEC 2021 said. Keynote speaker and Food Industry Asia executive director Matt Kovac says the number of people around the world without adequate nutrition had grown from 800 million to over one billion because of covid.
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New Zealand needs to press its claims for food production sustainability through the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) forum as a precursor to trade talks.

After covid-19’s devastating effects on economies in the region, the resiliency of food production has taken on new meaning, speakers at a Fonterra-hosted Live with Business session of APEC 2021 said.

Keynote speaker and Food Industry Asia executive director Matt Kovac says the number of people around the world without adequate nutrition had grown from 800 million to over one billion because of covid.

“By 2050, the world’s population will have grown above nine billion and more food will be needed,” Kovac said.

“And yet, crop and animal production accounts for one-quarter to one-third of total world greenhouse gas emissions, so our food production methods must change.”

Sustainability was about the methods of food production that are non-polluting, conserving non-renewable energy, economically efficient and safe for workers, communities and consumers.

Kovac says food production and environmental damage were often traded off, but there was no clear way of comparing the footprints of different foods.

Economies needed collaboration between public agencies and private companies to tackle the big food production and sustainability issues.

Individuals he called boundary ambassadors are needed to build trust around shared values in different world views.

“APEC has to bring these people together and break down needless bureaucracy, not just in governments but large companies also,” he said.

“These people are needed to work on solutions that future generations will be eternally grateful for.”

Fonterra chief executive Miles Hurrell says the APEC region needed to work quickly to find sustainable outcomes for nutritional needs.

In the past 18 months, world science has pulled together to find covid-19 vaccines.

“Imagine if we had the same focus and resources going into finding ways to reduce emissions. We would have it solved in no time,” Hurrell said.

MFAT deputy secretary Vangelis Vitalis says the NZ Government was putting together a food security roadmap through to 2030.

The 21 APEC economies will work together on sustainability of food supplies in the region.

The difficult issues to be tackled include climate change, water use, food loss and wastage and trade protectionism.

Vitalis says NZ would concentrate on the use of digital platforms to drive sustainability, production systems, trade and protectionism, women’s roles in agriculture, biodiversity, climate change and water quality.

“APEC is the ecosystem from which we derive our trade rules and our growth and prosperity,” Vitalis said.

“APEC is not a free trade agreement and we should be glad that it is not.

“Free trade agreements can take years, whereas APEC is agile and responsive to the crisis.”

Vitalis says NZ had agency across the region to affect and shape the discussions about food sustainability.

“It is crucial that we are engaged and we are seen as interested and constructive,” he said.

Fonterra Sustainability Panel chair Bridget Coates says consumers and investors in primary production are the same people and NZ has a huge opportunity to validate its sustainability credentials.

She spoke of enormous goodwill among farmers to their land and their animals, and where necessary to make changes to their productive systems.

The undertakings of the Climate Change Commission must be taken very seriously as NZ’s commitment to the world.

Golden Bay dairy farmer and former Nuffield Scholar Corrigan Sowman says farmers didn’t have many levers to pull in modification of systems.

“In the short-term, the challenges might be somewhat painful,” Sowman said.

“It might mean shrinking our productivity.”

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