Farm Efficiency Decline Shows Research Cannot be NeglectedThursday, Dec 28, 2000
Jacqueline Rowarth, president of the Institute of Agricultural Science and Unitec's director of research
raises again the fearful prospect - that NZ farming is not as efficient as it once was - but
even worse the ignorant proposers of niche marketing of NZ farm produce are leading us to oblivion.
Her statement that, "Australia has already overtaken us in efficiency of production. Argentina is not
far behind. Although there is considerable comment about the fact that we can supply niche markets
in Europe, particularly for the organic market, most supermarket shoppers are guided by price",
is a profound warning.
The leadership of our rural industries seems to have been abandoned to the whims of urban dictates promoted
through legislation, regulation and market demand. These intrusions on our rural production
systems may give a utility value to urban communities but at major cost to rural producers.
Legislation such as the resource management act, animal welfare act and other social legislation may
generally be required to manage the affairs of an increasingly urbanized community. However rural
producers are now facing market-imposed constraints from the same group of ideology focused urban
organisations further threatening to increase costs of production.
People make ideological statements about their hopes and aspirations but reality for all consumers is
governed by the dollar and the need for value for money. Irrespective of how well stores are stocked
the fundamental economic rule of scarce resource applies. In the consumers instance the scarce
resource is the ability to pay.
NZ farming prospered for the past 150 years because it researched, developed and refined production
systems and techniques. Jacqueline Rowarth is shouting a warning.
Will it be heard? Probably not!
NZ in the past 30 years has seen a series of well-intended social and economic disasters. Think big,
today's schools, user pays, level playing fields, etcetera. All promoted as leading to utopia. We
still seem to believe we can afford to be the country of"interesting social experiments".
We have used up any spare resources and now face a world that is at best indulgent in our social irrationalities
but at worst indifferent.
It is time for NZ's primary industries to revert to the proven business practice of research, development,
production and marketing on a broad front and put aside the gamblers belief that another throw
of the dice will give immediate success.