Comment: Julia Jones needs to get something of her chest – and it involves you, the producers of this country's food and fibre.
That New Zealand producers need to feed the world is something I hear far too often. In theory, it's a nice idea, but the reality of it is that it's not our role – never has been, never will be.
This shouldn't be considered a negative though; quite the opposite. It means that New Zealand producers can focus on producing quality for profitability and not feel the pressure that we are feeding the entire world.
To put this all in perspective, let's wrap some numbers around it.
The world's food system is worth approximately NZ$12 trillion and New Zealand earns approximately NZ$40 billion for exporting food and fibre around the world – that's less than 1 per cent of the world's food system value.
So let's look at how many people we can feed.
It's likely New Zealand can feed around 40 million people and 4.5 million of those are our own citizens, so that really only leaves the capacity to feed 35 million people – less than 1 percent of the world's population*.
A shift in narrative
There was a point where, as producers, you were being told: 'More, more, more – produce more, buy more, do more, feed more'.
It didn't matter if it was your processor, your banker, scientists or your neighbour... even the government was telling you: 'Whatever you do, do more because New Zealand is feeding the world and you are the backbone of our economy'.
After years of rapid growth, however, you woke up one day and found the narrative had shifted from more to less; suddenly you, the producers, were the villains and all those cheering you on were nowhere to be seen.
On top of this, you had to get your head around farming radically differently in order to preserve the industry's future.
We should all be very proud of how generations who came before us started and built agri-industry; even those in the pressure-cooker growth years demonstrated adroitness and adaptability.
It's now time for us to regroup and look to a new future. But first I need to say how sorry I am that you, as producers, got the blame for everything.
Collectively, as a country, we got to this point and collectively we need to remind ourselves and urban communities that farming is indeed a very noble and valued career.
New Zealand is not destined to feed the world; it never was.
What we are destined to do, however – and always have been – is provide nutrition for our own people, health and wellbeing for our natural resources, and an assurance that future generations will look back and be proud of what we have done.
* These figures were obtained from MPI and Ian Proudfoot at KPMG.
- Julia Jones is Head of Analytics at NZX and a former KPMG farm enterprise specialist.