Chief Executive's Blog - 14 March 2018

New Zealand is providing valuable pre-Brexit insights into just what it takes to be a major exporting force according to Chief Executive Scott Walker, who writes:

“I am a few days into a group study trip to New Zealand to examine its red meat sector supply chain.  Apart from a lightning strike to the plane, which made everything go very quiet for a while, the trip has run like clockwork and has been a great insight into their industry.

The programme has been organised by the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, their Meat Industry Association, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade and the British High Commission in New Zealand.

It has been a tremendous opportunity to get a better understanding of how its Government and industry work together to maximise the export opportunities for their country.  It is clear to me that, whether you are a farmer in New Zealand, one of its meat processors or part of the Government, they are all focused on how they deliver the product to the market wherever that might be.  

It is staggering the number of countries that they export to.  For a nation with a population smaller than Scotland, they are totally export-market focused and deliver to more than 100 countries around the world.  

Each of these countries have their own market specifications and customer requirements.  

We complain about dealing with demands of the large retail multiples back home but imagine dealing with the needs of more than 100 countries.  

This focus on export is something that we will need to do much better post-Brexit.  Instead of relying simply on exports to the EU, we will need to look across the world if we are to maximise the value in the supply chain in order that our farmers and crofters get the best price possible for what they produce.

It goes without saying that New Zealand has clear climatic advantages compared to us that allows their farms to have a very different cost base, but they have only a small domestic food market which has meant they have been export focused for years.  
This focus on export, compared to the UK where we have the dominant large domestic retailers, has driven a different attitude and approach across their supply chain.

In the past, they were largely commodity producers, but they have been - and continue to be – focused on how they move up the supply chain to capture more of the value.

Its processing industry and the NZ Government work more closely together in ensuring that regulation is an enabler to export.  They don’t want costs that don’t add or deliver value. Partnership between the Government and industry is vital.  This is something we must also seize.  We need to move away from the EU or UK approach to regulation, to one where both the regulator and our industry are focused on the objective and what needs to be done to achieve that.

A focus on the needs of the customer also drives the NZ supply chain and that is something we can learn from.  Feedback on what customers need today and in the future is important to the decision being made, whether it be on farm or by processors.  

But, like farming across most countries in the world, the growing challenge for those in NZ is environmental regulation and I will learn more about that in the farm visits planned in the coming days.

Author: Scott Walker

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About The Author

Scott Walker

Scott Walker became Chief Executive of NFU Scotland in August 2011. He was previously Policy Director at NFU Scotland, a position to which he was appointed in 2004. He is a member of the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board representing employers' interests. He is a member of Scotland Food & Drink executive group. He is a member of the National Project Assessment Committee for the Scottish Government Food Processing Marketing and Co-operation Grant Scheme.

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