Why would the amount of rice being eaten in Asia plateauing be good for New Zealand?
Because Asia's growing middle class is turning from rice to eating protein which is rising in consumption by 5 per cent annually and New Zealand is well-placed to meet that increased demand, said Stefan Hajkowicz, a top scientist on strategic foresight at Australia's federal scientific agency CSIRO.
Hajkiowicz is author of the recently-published Global Megatrends, a book that identified six inter-related mega trends including a shift in the world economy from west to east and north to south. He's in New Zealand for a conference organised by High-Value Nutrition.
Asian consumers turning to a westernised diet are also becoming more choosy about what they eat, looking for nutrition rather than just more calories, he says.
They want to know where their food comes from and are also concerned about food safety with New Zealand and Australia perceived to be safe.
Consumers are prepared to pay a premium for products that deliver on that, he said.
Under-delivering on that promise can have a big backlash though, he warned, citing the example of the 2013 scandal when UK supermarkets were found to be selling frozen beefburgers that contained traces of horsemeat.
"There was a loss of trust while sales went up at local butchers that had a trusted relationship with their customers," Hajkowicz said.
New Zealand dairy producers benefited after the 2008 melamine scandal in China which led to a loss of consumer trust in locally produced milk and milk products.
"Almost 10 years on that loss of trust has stayed. There's been exponential growth in New Zealand dairy exports since 2005, and during that period it developed an FTA with China, which has to sign these trade deals because it can't feed itself."
He said New Zealand should apply its tourism 100% Pure campaign to the agricultural industry, and back up that clean-green image with science validation.