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Need To Aim For Niche Markets

New Zealand Pastoral & Food sectors need to aim for niche markets, says Fast Forward Fund Chair

29 October 2008

The Chairman of the Fast Forward Fund Board, Bill Falconer, says that if New Zealand pastoral and food products are to compete on the global market, a focussed collaborative effort between the Government’s research provider agencies and business is needed, starting with the identification of gaps in the market.

Speaking at the Horizons in Livestock Sciences Conference, jointly presented by AgResearch and CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) Livestock Industries in Christchurch, he said New Zealand’s pastoral and food industries had always been the backbone of the country’s economic capability and they would also be the centre of future growth.

He says central to the growth of New Zealand’s economy to achieve and match those countries to which New Zealand benchmarks itself, would be the pastoral, horticultural and aqua-cultural sectors as well as the processing industries which create food products to meet the increasingly sophisticated demands of the world’s consumers.

“The key is to determine ways of adding value to our capability, of moving our products up the value chain and to find out what the market wants, rather than making more of what we can produce.

“If we are to grow, our people need resources to work with and something to sell,” he says. “While New Zealand can’t feed the world, we have to make sure that our produce finds its way into high margin products and is directed to those who will pay most for them. We are facing a new range of challenges if we are to meet the demands and expectations of the world’s food consumers.”

Bill Falconer says this requires a quantum shift in the way in which New Zealand addresses its primary sector research and development, and a quantum leap in the amount of funding dedicated to the task.

He says New Zealand will have to produce with the discerning customer in mind – those who put emphasis on high standards, health and nutrition, and food that has been grown under conditions which will sustain essential resources such as soil, water and energy. “Meeting these expectations will require levels of research well beyond that on which farm production and productivity has been based.”

The Fast Forward Fund is aiming at establishing programmes between the government and the private sector which will address all the requirements needed for its pastoral and food industries to compete on a global market.

He says the Board plans to produce a discussion document before the end of the year to consult with cornerstone shareholders and other stakeholders early next year. A strategy will then be presented to the Government. The Board however, first needs to define what will constitute transformational investment in research and development, principles to ensure that the investment is additional to what is already being undertaken and principles as to what constitutes the sustainable use of resources. “In addition to that the Board needs to determine the principles for the transition of investment funds from front end research to product and market development, and the respective contributions of the Fast Forward Fund and private sector investors.”

Bill Falconer says the pastoral and food sectors need to apply their experience and skills to a new endeavour. “And we would need to do it better, and faster, than our competitors – or maybe in partnership with them.”


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