Thursday, 25 February 2021 16:55

Manawatu's economy bouncing back

Written by  Staff Reporters
Chief executive of the Central Economic Development Agency Linda Stewart. Chief executive of the Central Economic Development Agency Linda Stewart.

Although the national economy is still functioning below pre-pandemic levels and the road ahead remains uncertain, the Manawatu region appears to be bearing up well.

While the Manawatu economy continues to experience the impact of the effects of Covid-19, it was not hit as intensely as the rest of New Zealand.

According to economics forecaster Infometrics, the region’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) declined by 1.8% per annum in the September 2020 quarter (compared with the September 2019 quarter), while New Zealand’s GDP declined by 3.3%.

“The September quarter offers a good picture of the rate of economic recovery in the region,” says Linda Stewart, chief executive of the Central Economic Development Agency (CEDA).

From the beginning of the Covid-19 impacts, it was expected that regions with a large food based primary sector would weather the economic storm better than those highly exposed to international tourism.

“Food-based primary exports continued to perform well, as overseas markets are increasingly attracted to New Zealand produce thanks to our reputation for high quality produce and food safety standards,” says Stacey Bell, economist for the Manawatu District Council.

Mark Piper, director category, strategy & innovation for Fonterra says the Manawatu is fortunate to be a centre for food innovation in NZ.

“We have teams of people right across the region always challenging the boundaries of how we make food better – better for you and a better all-round experience, affecting primary exports positively,” he explains.

Export values have held up relatively well because of continued strong demand and increased volumes. Commodity prices for our two largest exports, (dairy and red meat) have fallen in terms of trade, meaning the value of goods we export to the goods we import have started to slide downwards.

“The outlook is for the further softening of red meat prices in particular heading into 2021 due to the decline in restaurant activity in the Northern Hemisphere,” Bell explains.

“While the forecasts remain, the beginning of the roll out of effective vaccines in the UK, US and hopefully Europe, in the coming weeks and the subsequent loosening of economic restrictions, supports a more positive outlook,” she adds.

Meanwhile, the number of people in the region registered for the MSD Job Seekers benefit increased by 22% in September 2020 from September 2019, while the number in New Zealand increased by 43% – nearly double that of our region.

“Manawatu is geared for growth and recovery. Capital projects and investments from central and local government and a significant construction pipeline further support the recovery of our region, along with our resilient primary sector and connected business community. 2021 is looking bright, and we will come back stronger than before,” Stewart concludes.

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