Monday, February 26, 2024

MPI flags labour pressures in ministers’ ag briefing

Neal Wallace
Ministry warns that NZ’s falling birthrate and ageing population will create further workforce pressures for industry.
Rabobank said the challenge right now with the seasonal production curve is that more dairy is being added to the GDT in the face of weak demand.  
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Labour shortages are likely to remain a significant obstacle for the primary sector, according to a Ministry for Primary Industries briefing for incoming ministers.

“Competition from other sectors for workers, relatively limited opportunities for growth and development in on-farm roles and a preference to work in more urban centres are all factors in these trends.”

Changes to immigration settings in 2020 to reduce New Zealand’s reliance on foreign labour led to an increase in wages, but were a financial impositions on employers, the document states.

It warns that NZ’s falling birthrate and a more urbanised and ageing population will create further workforce pressures.

“For instance, by 2030, approximately one in five NZers will be over 65 and one in three will still be working.

“The populations of Auckland, Hamilton, and Christchurch are expected to increase but smaller centres shrink, particularly in West Coast, Nelson, and Marlborough regions.”

Climate change is the primary sector’s biggest long-term challenge and reducing on-farm emissions requires joint investment by the government, industry and farmers.

In April the MPI hopes to release a commercial calculator to measure farm emissions. It will be linked to farm management and accounting software.

“This will put farmers in control of their data and support a better user experience.

“The methodology may also have applicability to support commercial processor market claims.”

The briefing papers traverse the failed He Waka Eke Noa collaboration to reduce emissions and reiterate the current goal of having the industry report on-farm greenhouse gas emissions from 2025.

Climate change also threatens the security and supply of water on the east coasts of both islands and the MPI reveals it is investigating the current state of NZ’s water availability and security and any future impacts from climate and regulatory changes.

Initial research has identified Northland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Otago, Greater Wellington, Tasman and Manawatū-Whanganui as regions with potential for water resource development based on climate, topography and available unallocated water. 

The document also reveals that in the past three years the MPI and industry have jointly invested $41.9 million in 18 projects to try to revitalise the strong wool sector.

These projects funded development of innovative and high value products, facilitating collaboration and improving supply-chain capability.

“Most of the projects focus on new products or uses for strong wool and include businesses that are new to the sector.”

Export earnings from agriculture, fisheries and forestry reached a record $53.1billion in the year to June 30 2022 and much of that success relies on international recognition of NZ’s “reliable and high-quality regulatory systems”.

The MPI estimates that by 2050, an additional 3 billion people globally will be middle class, almost exclusively from emerging markets Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

This is in addition to income growth of consumers in NZ’s existing export markets.

The MPI expects this growth will create opportunities for food exporters to market directly sourced food, natural and ethical foods, food tailored to specific health needs and novel food from synthetic and cultivated proteins.

The briefing says the MPI is progressing the aims of the Primary Sector Council’s Fit for a Better World Vision, launched in July 2020.

The project consists of 23 programmes comprising 47 initiatives and sets three targets.

The first two goals are to add $44bn to export earnings by 2030 through value creation and reduce methane emissions to 24-47% below 2017 levels by 2050 and by 10% by 2030 as well as restoring NZ’s freshwater to a healthy state within a generation.

The third goal is to employ 10% more New Zealanders in the food and primary industries  by 2030 and 10,000 more by 2024.

Integral to that programme is the Sustainable Food and Fibre Future (SFFF) fund in which the MPI co-invests in initiatives with industry.

As of last March, $552m had been invested by both parties in projects as diverse as understanding regenerative farming practices to growing hemp and medicinal cannabis.

The SFFF Opportunity Grows Here employee recruitment campaign has attracted 15,313 people to work in the industry, beating the 10,000 Fit for a Better World Target.

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