Monday, February 26, 2024

Raising a glass to better times ahead

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Since a change of government following October’s election, there is growing optimism in the primary sector, writes Craig Page.
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The year is quickly drawing to an end and for some in the rural sector that can’t come soon enough.

Extreme weather events, falling commodity prices and rising inflation in 2023 have placed added pressure on those looking to make their living from the land. Add to that the seemingly never-ending regulatory requirements, and it is no wonder farmers will be looking to flush the dunny on the past 12 months.

Rabobank’s latest Global Animal Protein Outlook report, released last week, dampens hopes that 2024 will bring an immediate change of fortune.

The annual report is predicting that, after four years of growth in animal production around the world, next year will see the brakes applied with a slowing in some protein types. It also warns producers and processors will need to adapt if they plan on having success.

The report expects pressure will remain on New Zealand’s livestock industries – particularly from environmental factors – and there is unlikely to be any major production growth.

Beef production is expected to fall slightly, due to a reduction in herds. There will be an increase in sheepmeat production and export lamb volumes but prices will hinge on how much lamb Australia continues to export and whether demand from China picks up.

Most of what is outlined in the report will come as no surprise to NZ farmers but, perhaps, the situation is not as gloomy as it suggests.

A new report predicts demand in China for imported high-value, high-nutrition protein products will soon start to grow again. 

There are plenty of positive initiatives going in the sector and readers of Farmers Weekly will have seen those featured on the pages of this newspaper throughout 2023.

Since a change of government following October’s election, there is growing optimism in the sector.

National has promised to address much of the red tape farmers feel has bogged them down for the past few years. The coalition government will make an announcement about the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management before Christmas. 

Next year the government will reverse, replace or review a further 12 policies that impact the primary sector, including methane targets. NZ First has secured agreement for a Regional Infrastructure Fund, with $1.2 billion available in capital funding, which suggests there will be money to spend outside of the big cities. 

It might also be time to upgrade the four-wheel drive as we wave goodbye to the ute tax.

Nine cabinet ministers, associate ministers or ministers outside cabinet will look after the affairs of the primary sector and its related interests. There is a strong rural presence in the government, which should ensure a rural voice is heard when decisions in Parliament are made.

The new government won’t have all the answers to the issues facing the sector. Environment targets will be implemented and need to be met. 

However, a fresh approach might just provide farmers with a spring in their step as they prepare to face a new year.

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