Wednesday, 05 August 2020 08:37

Farmers missing out on newer technology

Written by  Mark Ross, chief executive of Agcarm

OPINION: Ineffective regulation is leading to farmers and growers missing out on products that will increase their productivity and be safer to use.

The Government launched a bold plan to boost primary sector export earnings by $44 billion over the next decade, while protecting the environment and growing jobs. The plan, launched last month, involves a 10-year roadmap to unlock greater value for a sector vital to New Zealand’s economic recovery.

As the Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor pointed out, there is huge potential in the roadmap, but it can only be achieved through a close government partnership with industry and Māori. 

Our animal medicine and crop protection members are essential to the roadmap’s success. Not only do they support the agriculture export industry, they also ensure environmental sustainability and a diverse range of positive animal health outcomes. Examples include prevention of pain and suffering, control of diseases, and preservation of our endemic species. 

To ensure the continued availability of safe and environmentally friendly products, billions of dollars are spent internationally by companies researching innovative products. These products are cleaner, softer, and more precise in their actions. This benefits not only farmers and growers but our environment and health as well.

To maintain New Zealand’s world-leading farming practices, it is essential to keep innovating to replace older chemistry. Trialling new products and offering farmers solutions for resistance management and greener options for managing pests and diseases is necessary.

Unfortunately, our regulatory environment is preventing the acceleration of innovative products due to a significantly more stringent approval process. Crop protection companies and trial providers face greater difficulty in developing new products. This blocks the introduction of new and softer disease management tools to the New Zealand market, constraining the ability of farmers and growers to access new products.

The market potential of a crop or livestock to offer a return on investment to justify trials is becoming increasingly difficult, despite existing trial programmes being a low risk activity. 

This makes efforts to find replacements for older and more hazardous compounds even more difficult, particularly for minor species. 

Every season of trials being lost is slowing access to new actives and label claims that are used globally.

Researchers have cancelled over 50 trails and missed two seasons of trial work due to our ineffective regulation. Agcarm is working with officials to develop sensible solutions. In the meantime, farmers and growers are missing out on products that will increase their productivity and be safer to use, including organic and greener alternatives. 

If New Zealand wants to achieve the government goal of doubling our agriculture sector export earnings, while protecting the environment and growing jobs, it must encourage innovation and the registration of new, safer and greener products. We will then all benefit from healthy crops, healthy animals and a healthy country.

•  Mark Ross is chief executive of Agcarm, the industry association for companies which manufacture and distribute crop protection and animal health products.

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