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Food and Beverage sector asked to consider future

Media Release

Food and Beverage sector asked to consider its future Business as usual a high-risk option says Taskforce Chair

New Zealand's food and beverage sector is being asked to consider the best way forward to ensure and boost its sustainable growth.

Sector participants are being invited to provide feedback on a discussion paper, prepared by the Food and Beverage Taskforce, which explores what needs to be done and by whom to take New Zealand's multi-billion dollar food and beverage sector to the next level of growth.

Food and Beverage Taskforce Co-Chair and Griffin's Foods Managing Director, Tony Nowell says that the sector needs to acknowledge that the world is changing.

"There are new food trends, increasing consumer demands on quality and safety, growing competition from emerging suppliers and increasing pressures from powerful buyer chains. These trends create opportunities for New Zealand companies, but also pose threats.

"The Taskforce believes that business as usual is a high-risk position, and not one that will result in the sector realising its full potential."

The issues raised in the discussion paper are based on research commissioned by the Taskforce and analysis of trends in the sector. The content includes the key challenges facing the sector and three scenarios for the future.

Food and beverage exports have doubled in the past 10 years and today are worth about $15 billion annually, just over half of New Zealand's total merchandise exports.

Mr Nowell says the future of New Zealand's economy is inseparably bound with the future of its food and beverage industries.

"It is the linchpin of New Zealand's prosperity. It is at the centre of production, employment and export earnings and is a driving force in New Zealand's international reputation for innovation and quality.

"We cannot lift and sustain our overall economic performance without a leading contribution from a strong and growing food and beverage sector. At the same time, if this sector is in trouble the economy is in trouble. Major regions depend on the sector for jobs and income."

Mr Nowell says the sector has performed well over the last decade, partly as a result of good circumstances, and partly through research and development, clever marketing and effective management.

"We can't rest on our laurels, however. There are signs of a levelling off of food exports over the last two years, due in part to the high dollar and some parts of the sector being under stress."

The Taskforce is seeking feedback on its discussion paper from private sector food and beverages businesses, government agencies, research institutions, training providers and unions.

It will also hold a series of workshops around the country in February 2006 where individuals and industry groups will have another opportunity to give feedback on the discussion paper.

"Food and beverage producers have a proud history and a good story to tell. We must now tap into our collective knowledge and energy to craft a way forward to the next level of performance," says Mr Nowell.

"This is the time for wide consultation. This discussion paper is a first step - it is not a set of proposals. We will take all feedback into account in revising our thinking before engaging again, more directly, with sector groups and individuals who are willing to be involved in this initiative."

The Food and Beverage Taskforce is a group of 20 leaders from the country's food and beverage industries and senior government representatives, appointed last December by the Government and charged with developing an industry-backed agenda to realise the huge potential of this fast-growing sector.

The Taskforce will report to Government at the end of June 2006 and Mr Nowell says this is a chance for everyone involved in the sector to have their say on what shape its future should take.


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