Don't wait for Govt R&D - Agribusiness survey

By Ben Chapman-Smith

Agribusiness is fundamental to the country's economy. Photo / Thinkstock
Agribusiness is fundamental to the country's economy. Photo / Thinkstock

New Zealand's agriculture sector has relied for too long on a "number-eight wire culture" instead of investing in long-term innovation processes, according to a survey of industry leaders.

KPMG's Agribusiness Agenda 2012, out today, showed many leaders felt the primary sector needed to take more responsibility for innovation, rather than waiting for Government to take the lead.

Other countries have developed far more focused agriculture strategies and are nipping at our heels, said Ian Proudfoot, KPMG head of Agribusiness for Asia Pacific.

"What's come through very clearly is that in the past we have relied on our number-eight wire culture, waiting for eureka moments," Proudfoot said.

"I don't think there's a lot of proactive planning that goes on - I think we generally find a problem and then look for a solution."

Agribusiness is fundamental to the country's economy and we need to be doing better with our talent, resources and market reputation, he said.

KPMG surveyed 98 business leaders in March and 81 per cent said they wanted to see some form of pan-industry strategy and vision, with forums created to allow discussion.

The results showed where collaboration has existed, it has generally been ad hoc and only occurred in response to specific issues, such as the PSA outbreak.

Leaders agreed that part of better collaboration meant companies needed to start investing more in innovation rather than waiting for Government to take the lead.

"We haven't had a culture of investing in innovation in this country," Proudfoot said.

"The message has come through very clearly; it's the companies who are not doing enough."

New Zealand's current innovation system sees 54.3 per cent of the research and development spend coming for Government, compared to many other countries where companies spend the majority. In Australia, only 35.7 per cent of the spend comes from the Government and 64.3 per cent from the industry.

In order for the sector to start working together on these issues, a strong leader was needed who could galvanise the industry, Proudfoot said.

Top priority amongst leaders was the need to maintain vigilance around biosecurity, especially in light of the recent hunt for a Fruit Fly in Avondale, Auckland.

Of those surveyed, 83 per cent rated the need for New Zealand to have a world-class biosecurity system as 9 out of 10 priority.

"People are realising there's the risk of real significant impact from an incursion and I think it's probably the thing that keeps people awake at night," Proudfoot said.

When asked about industry good organisations, leaders said their top ranking priority was having industry representation and advocacy at Government level.

High priority was also given to the need for better rural broadband and irrigation.

Despite the furore over the Crafar Farms sale, leaders gave low priority to the need to restrict foreign investment in rural lands and assets.

- NZ Herald

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