Saturday, April 13, 2024

Softer side of FTA brings group to Lincoln

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Korean farmers, students and businesspeople on visit to strengthen ties and share knowedge.
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AN AGRIBUSINESS educational programme underway between Korea and New Zealand marks a pivotal moment in the collaborative efforts under the free trade agreement signed between the two countries almost nine years ago.    

The programme is an initiative under the FTA agreement for bilateral engagement to create mutual prosperity and open market access for both NZ and Korea.

Heading the programme for the 34-strong agribusiness group currently part of the Korean study group based at Lincoln University is Professor of Agribusiness Hamish Gow.

“It is a catalyst to drive NZ’s engagement with Asia and understanding of both countries,” he said.

NZ is the only country in the world to have an agricultural co-operation agreement written into its FTA with Korea.

“Eastern Asia looks to Korea as a trendsetter. NZ can leverage off that.” 

Gow has been working for the past 30 years in specialist agribusiness management, including international marketing and rural development, applying designated innovation to assist farmers and regional SMEs build innovative customer-focused business models and value chains that can successfully launch into local, regional and international markets. 

A key highlight of the Korea-NZ FTA co-operation is the eight-week programme that combines English language training with specialised agribusiness studies.

The group of 34 are a cross-section of key industry agribusiness leaders, farmers, policy makers, business owners and university students from across Korea.

A further group of 10 is based in Nelson in a specialist fisheries programme.

Korea is a key trading partner for NZ, with two-way trade worth $5.38 billion in the year ending December 2021, an increase of 25% since the FTA came into force in December 2015. 

Currently, Korea is NZ’s sixth largest trading partner. In 2021, NZ exported $2.28bn of total goods and services to Korea and imported $3.1bn.

“This bilateral relationship creates the groundwork for an even closer relationship between NZ and Korea,” Gow said.

Korea programme leader Sehee Kim said many of the group come from farming and business economics backgrounds.

“Some are just learning about agriculture but some have good experience in agribusiness,” Kim said.

“We don’t know a lot about NZ agriculture but we are getting some very good insights, around scale especially and weather and how that is important.

“The programme is about comparing similarities and differences between the two countries and how we can share knowledge from both sides.

“Because we are living here for four weeks, we are also learning the NZ culture.

“We will take everything we learn back [to Korea] to work in co-operation with NZ for the benefit of both countries, which is what the FTA co-operation states we do,” Kim said.

Of the eight-week programme, the first two weeks were spent in Korea as a group, with two weeks remote learning in connection with Lincoln University.

The entourage arrived in NZ in mid-January to advance their learning in specialist agribusiness programmes at the Lincoln campus.

Korean agribusiness group members, farmer Peter Kim and university student Lucas Park.

Over the four weeks, this has included field trips to all sectors of farming across Canterbury, including arable, horticultural, high country, sheep, beef, deer, dairy and several related processing companies.

Key insights and highlights have been the collaboration and co-operative approach to farming and the associated value chain control to market as well as the scale of farming operations.

“The co-operative system, the scale of operation and how the product is in control of value from the farm to NZ export is wow!” farmer Peter Kim said.

Kim farms a one-hectare rosehip orchard for a niche cosmetic market and a further 1ha of fresh vegetables.

“Just a 2ha farm, we are teeny tiny. For me NZ is big scale, this is a first time experience. There is a lot to take in.”

University student Lucas Park said to see the difference between both countries is a “big insight”.

“I am not an agronomist, yet, but I am very interested in genetics and breeding systems and really eager to see what kind of technologies NZ use.

“I have been very surprised. I came open-minded, but this is all quite different to my expectations, the temperatures and environment are so different.

“Co-operating with each other has impressed me, the mindset, branding in big companies and farmer co-operatives, like McCain and Fonterra.

“In Korea we do not have systems like this and we struggle with so many obstacles.

“There’s a lot we could adopt and I am very keen to learn the agronomy work,” Park said.

The Korea-NZ FTA co-operation programme is sponsored by the Ministry for Primary Industries and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the equivalent under the Korean government, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, with the team at Education NZ – Manapou ki te Ao bringing the group to NZ. 

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