Comment: The success of the food and fibre sector will be defined by how well we can align and adapt, with the focus being the 'whole' sector, not competing subsectors, writes Julia Jones.

We hear lots of talk about the urban-rural divide, but of late, as I travel around the country, I find myself asking, "Is there is an emerging rural-rural divide?"

I'm fortunate to get to talk to a variety of people from a variety of subsectors in the food and fibre sector, and without fail someone within each group (from anywhere in the value chain) will mention that they see the sun setting on another subsector.

It's never stated with malice, just more of an observation made with a level of empathy for the challenges they see for the 'other' subsector. At times this can go as far as people claiming the answer is to just get rid of that subsector or organisation and replace it with theirs.

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We can't point fingers at our urban populations for not understanding or trusting our sector when we are not taking the time to understand or trust each other's subsectors.

None of this screams an aligned sector; none of this is going to help the sector transform for a successful future; and none of this provides the confidence that is desperately needed for those who are most important in the sector – our families and communities.

Here is the reality: no one has it easy, no one has a free ride, no one gets to avoid climate change, no one can do whatever they like to the environment and no one has absolute certainty or clarity of what disruptors/opportunities will come our way in the future.

No one subsector is the answer

Everyone must change and no one subsector is the answer; nothing is going to stay the same for anyone so, like it or not, we are all in this together.

The good news is the more we cross-pollinate across subsectors and up and down the value chain, the more we learn valuable lessons from each other's mistakes.

The more we learn to see the intersections' bio-diversity, the better chance ALL subsectors have of success.

READ MORE:
Julia Jones: 'Dear food and fibre 2019, it's 2030 here' - a letter from the future

It doesn't matter what you are growing, you are all part of the food and fibre sector, and, like a coral reef, this sector is an ecosystem in which although many parts seem segregated there is an interdependency, both ecological and social.

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If one subsector fails, over time this is likely to weaken the other subsectors and therefore weaken the entire sector – and that is good for no one.

We can't point fingers at our urban populations for not understanding or trusting our sector when we are not taking the time to understand or trust each other's subsectors.

No one knows what is ahead; the uncertainties we face don't define the industry's success, or automatically remove opportunities – in fact, quite the opposite.

Julia Jones. Photo / Duncan Brown
Julia Jones. Photo / Duncan Brown

The success of the food and fibre sector will be defined by how well we can align and adapt, with the focus being the sector as a whole, not 'my sector'.

Make time to get along to another subsector group's events with an intention and openness to learn.

Share knowledge of your subsector and seek and listen to their thoughts and opinions.

Don't panic if at first things seem a bit tense – trust and connections take time to build.

This is a huge and exciting journey. We don't all need to be travelling in the same vehicle, but we do need to be moving on the same road in the same direction.

- Julia Jones is Head of Analytics at NZX and a former KPMG farm enterprise specialist.