Former Prime Minister John Key said, at the start of the Level 4 Lockdown, that businesses should be concerned about their reputations.
Opening the 47th National Fieldays at Mystery Creek, Key noted that the theme of the event – innovation – was appropriate and critical for New Zealand to keep its place as a leading producer of primary products and for the economic survival of many people.
The PM says NZ is now using science to do many things better, such as producing more and better lambs from fewer ewes and improving their survival rates.
“All sorts of businesses here at Fieldays are geared to basically improve the productivity and profitability of what is happening on farm. If you walk around the 1000 displays here, a lot of them have an innovation or science bent. NZ productivity on farm has been dramatically rising and businesses are becoming a lot more productive. It’s one of the reasons why they are able to cope with a higher exchange rate.”
Key says everyone knows dairy is going through a tough time, but last year dairy farmers were looking at an $8.40/kgMS payout.
“It feels a bit tough now when our poor old dairy farmers are looking at a payout that’s got 4 in front of it. That shows why it is so important we keep innovating on farm because we can’t stop the cycles of commodity prices and the variation of exchange rates.
“But it’s at the toughest of times that we have to keep investing on farm and using that research and new techniques to make sure we lift profitability in what we are doing. Dairy farmers are probably feeling a bit nervous at the moment, but I am told things are going to recover.”
Key says the news that Fonterra is to shed staff and that its performance is being questioned is healthy – inasmuch as it’s the [farmers’] right to challenge the board and make sure they [the farmers] feel comfortable with its directions and decisions. But Key says it’s not for him to make a judgement as he is not an owner of Fonterra. He sees a lot of good things coming out of Fonterra.
He is also impressed with the efforts of the other primary sector groups, and he singled out kiwifruit as a sector that is picking up.
“It wasn’t that long ago that PSa was wreaking havoc in the kiwifruit industry. Today we are seeing kiwifruit doing immensely well,” Key says.