Biosecurity has remained the highest-ranked priority for the New Zealand primary sector for the eighth year in a row, KPMG said in its latest issue of AgriBusiness Agenda.

KPMG, in releasing its survey results at National Fieldays at Mystery Creek, said biosecurity incursions, environmental challenges, water quality, labour availability, trade wars and rural infrastructure all featured prominently among respondents, who were industry leaders across the primary sector.

"Unsurprisingly, against a background of Mycoplasma bovis and myrtle rust, world-class biosecurity remains a number one priority ranking for the eighth consecutive year, hitting a new record priority score of 9.62 in the process," it said.

Delivery of a high speed rural broadband came second, with a ranking of 8.73 and food security ranked third at 8.63.


The consultancy's global head of agribusiness, Ian Proudfoot, said last year's agenda was about opportunities in global markets whereas this year's theme was weighted towards a range of domestic issues.

"It has been a challenging year for the industry, where the mainstream narrative has been predominantly negative despite agri-food continuing to dominate New Zealand's export revenues," Proudfoot said. "The negativity presents risks to the industry's social license to operate and its ability to command a premium price in global markets."

Given the discovery of Mycoplasma bovis and myrtle rust in the past year, as well the brown marmorated stink bug, it was not surprising that maintaining world class biosecurity again rated the highest ranked priority for industry leaders, recording its highest priority score in the survey, Proudfoot said.

"There was a clear message that the speed of response to Mycoplasma bovis has been compromised by farmers not fulfilling their obligations under NAIT [The National Animal Identification and Tracing scheme]," Proudfoot said. "This highlights that managing biosecurity risks must become enshrined as part of the day to day responsibility of everybody that works in the agri-food sector," he said.

The central role that environmental degradation and water quality played in last year's election featured strongly in many of KPMG's conversations, with concern over the way the issue is constantly presented as the primary sector's problem, Proudfoot said.

"Whether we like it or not, every New Zealander has contributed to the degradation of our environment, waterways and beaches. Addressing these issues need whole of community responses," he said.

"Agri-food sector leaders recognise they have a major role to play, demonstrated by the significant rise in priority attached to restoring native ecosystems in the survey. But they also recognise that they can't solve the problems alone."

KPMG's Agenda also highlighted the need to ensure land use plans were optimised in response to community requirements and market expectations. The current state of the labour market was another recurrent theme. Uncertainties around being able to recruit and retain migrant labour and the recognised seasonal employer scheme have left many organisations facing labour shortages.


"Current policy settings are putting at risk the ability of organisations across the primary sector to complete the work that needs to be done today," Proudfoot said.

The 2018 Agribusinuess Agenda Priorities Survey

Top 5 priorities Priority Score 2018 (2017)
1 - World-class biosecurity 9.62 (9.23)
2 - High speed rural broadband 8.73 (8.51)
3 - Food safety - strategic importance 8.63 (8.54)
4 - Create NZ provenance brands 8.52 (8.60)
5 - Innovate with customers 8.50 (8.50)

- Staff Reporter