Agricultural Research & Changing Markets.Tuesday, Jul 15, 2003
European reports that agricultural research has shifted emphasis from increasing farm production to a new focus that assesses the environmental impact of the whole agricultural production chain is giving an early warning of a new challenge to New Zealand's pastoral producers.
The strong European emphases on sustainable economic and environmental policies for agricultural will eventually have an impact on exporters to that important market.
NZ agricultural research has in the past emphasised the application of mechanisation and technology to New Zealand's agriculture and for more than a century this has been the edge that has enabled New Zealand pastoral farming to be a world leaders in pastoral production efficiency.
However, the growing demand for production sustainability appears to have set in process a new awareness of the consumers concerns about how producers manage food safety, animal welfare and environmental concerns throughout the production chain.
The new subtly in managing this changed consumer intent to influence how food is produced is that producers must now accept that consumer pressure groups will now wish and intrude on farm management practice at the individual farmer level
As far as food is concerned the "I want" consumer of the past is shifting from being a buyer who critically assesses relevant price and quality of products available at the time of purchase to that of a supposedly well informed shopper seeking intangible qualities based on feelings, emotions and fashionable perceptions of goodness and wholesomeness.
The speed with which McDonalds has responded with menu changes to finger-pointing over their claimed negative role in general increases in obesity in western populations is a warning that major shifts in consumer attitudes can be responded to with remarkable speed when a company feels under threat.
The thought of going to McDonalds to buy a vegetable salad with french dressing instead of a beef hamburger would have been scoffed at a few years ago - it now appears to be a distinct probability. A market change that could be a bit negative for the manufacturing beef producer.
While in many minds the debate on sustainable food production is a choice between organic or non organic production the new market reality may be centred on the continued acceptance of traditional foods for consumption by a modern society.
Pastoral farmers in broad terms are produces of traditional foods. The early warnings are showing that the future may demand change in our perceptions of what should be produced from the land.
Who is looking after the NZ based research for that?