In the midst of the current pandemic, a small group of countries have been international beacons of hope, through protecting their citizens with science-based responses to the new virus.
New Zealand has been one of those exemplars, praised internationally for "squashing the curve".
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That admiration is translating into a trade advantage for our primary sector exporters.
Last month, the Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit at Lincoln University surveyed British consumers, who were just beginning their lockdown, and compared it with results from a similar survey in August 2019. The results were staggering.
British consumers have always been willing to pay a premium for quality New Zealand lamb. This price premium increased to between 31 per cent and 42 per cent during the pandemic, compared with between 11 per cent and 30 per cent in the 2019 survey.
Further, consumers clearly trust food produced by Māori enterprises. Māori-branded food can now attract a price premium of between 43 per cent and 50 per cent in British markets. This is a unique advantage for New Zealand exporters.
It is worth remembering that 36 per cent of our GDP comes from exports, and 64 per cent of merchandise exports are from agriculture, forestry, and aquaculture. So this is good news.
Never has our reputation as a safe and sustainable producer of food and beverages been higher.
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Add in global perceptions that we have low corruption and high political stability, and that we are one of the easiest countries in which to do business, it is clear that New Zealand is an increasingly attractive location for many sectors. International education and film production are good examples.
With such a strong international reputation, however, we also have never had so much to lose if we fail to protect our borders from all forms of pests, not just the Covid-19 virus. For that, we need an outstanding biosecurity system that detects any potential biosecurity threats before they get in. The science to achieve this is increasingly more challenging, due to climate change and changing trade patterns.
Further, to maintain our reputation for quality food and beverages, we need to be able to manage biosecurity threats in ways that are safe and sustainable. We need to be able to assure industries locating here, and parents sending their young people for education here, that the New Zealand environment is benign and free of threats.
To maintain and improve these qualities requires a steadfast commitment to science, particularly the science of bio-protection. This science discovers how to manage agricultural and other environmental pests by harnessing the relationships and defences that nature provides. It is science that New Zealand is very good at delivering.
We already have the skills and networks to take advantage of our unique position. We have the scientists. We have the motivation. We have the tertiary training institutions. We now need to ensure they have the resources they need to make sure, after the disruption of the lockdown, we can reap the economic rewards of the enviable position New Zealand now finds itself in.
• Professor Stephen Goldson is deputy director of the Bio-Protection Research Centre; Dr Caroline Saunders is director of the Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit, Lincoln University