Trends in the Food MarketThursday, May 17, 2001
An Australian report on international trends in agriculture suggests that North American farmers who
have survived the changes wrought by globalisation and the new economy are splitting into two camps.
The first group fits into the category of industrial agriculture - larger-scale operations using complex
technology and managerial expertise that supply products meeting the volume and specifications
demanded by big buyers such as international food processors and marketers.
The second group is family farms, which are adopting innovative and alternative approaches to growing
and marketing their produce. They are either unable to participate in mainstream commercial channels,
for viability, scale or technical reasons, or choose not to because they have a different vision
of food and farming.
The report goes on to suggest that the changes that happen in the US are a pretty good lead by three
to five years of the likely direction in Australian agriculture.
Where might this same scenario lead New Zealand agriculture in five years time?
Sure we have a different emphasis as low-cost but intensive pastoral farmers but is the major restructuring
of the dairy industry not a symptom of the same pressures for change from the global market
or the pressures on the surviving meat companies to re align processing to match their markets expectations.
An important item in the report points out the consumers' changing attitudes to food. They are placing
increasing importance on social, cultural and safety concerns that may have significant implications
on market success.
But even more importantly, consumer attitudes to sustainable agriculture have shifted to such a degree
that consumers now consider sustainable agriculture a primary expectation to be met by producers.
Does this mean that NZ agriculture is on a collision course with the perceptions of the consumers of
the products we produce?
Will “clean and green” be sufficient to satisfy their perceptions of sustainability? If
not will NZ agriculture bend to the markets demands or will attempts be made to change consumer’s
perceptions of the sustainability of NZ’s agricultural sustainability?
NZ agriculture has an interesting period ahead.