Pres­i­dent’s Word

Our place in the world

The Orchardist - - Contents - Ju­lian Raine is pres­i­dent of Hor­ti­cul­ture New Zealand.

Con­sumers are con­stantly de­mand­ing more and more for less money. New tech­nol­ogy is as­sist­ing some in­dus­tries to achieve this.

Food pro­duc­tion has ben­e­fited from tech­nol­ogy; whether it is ar­ti­fi­cial fer­tiliser, pes­ti­cides, ir­ri­ga­tion ap­pli­ca­tion or pre­ci­sion ma­chin­ery. Tech­nol­ogy has been on our side.

The num­ber of peo­ple a farmer can feed has dou­bled in the last decade and a half. As con­sumer wealth has mi­grated up­wards less money is spent on food that in turn al­lows the pur­chase of new con­sumer goods and ser­vices.

The down­side of this is that food is now taken for granted by cit­i­zens in western coun­tries in­clud­ing our own. Sea­son­al­ity has been lost and gen­er­ally con­sumers have an ex­pec­ta­tion that most fruit and veg­eta­bles will be avail­able all year round. Re­cently we have seen an out­cry when the costs of pro­duc­ing cer­tain food is hit by sea­sonal events and sup­plies have been lim­ited push­ing up prices on the shelves.

It is now com­mon for com­plains to be aired in the me­dia and the non-un­der­stand­ing con­sumer to be com­pletely un­aware that it is win­ter (cold and wet) or a storm has passed through.

Dis­rup­tion to sup­ply chains is not tol­er­ated.

If we ex­tend the same think­ing off­shore to our ex­port mar­kets, are we rel­e­vant? Would some­one miss us if we didn’t turn up or ship our pro­duce?

It is fright­en­ing to go to Asia Fruit Lo­gis­tica held in Hong Kong each year and see the com­pe­ti­tion. Our cus­tomers have a huge range of choice at com­pet­i­tive pric­ing. Out­side of some dairy prod­ucts, lamb and ki­wifruit we are largely un­no­ticed as a sup­plier with a glob­ally recog­nised branded prod­uct.

That is the cold re­al­ity we face. Ris­ing wealth in Asia is de­mand­ing of high qual­ity, safe and healthy food.

Safe, high qual­ity and healthy….isn’t that us?

It sure is. That is cer­tainly what we try to do - that is the New Zealand fruit and veg­etable in­dus­tries.

But how do we stand out?

In­ter­est­ingly, it prob­a­bly isn’t the fact that we in­di­vid­u­ally knock on a lot of cus­tomer doors. It is more likely to be as a re­sult of trade agree­ments, high pro­file New Zealan­ders, tourists vis­it­ing our coun­try and a few strong brands.

I sus­pect we have to thank peo­ple like Peter Jack­son’s Lord of the Rings tril­ogy, our sport­ing stars and a se­ries of very good Prime Min­is­ters.

Re­cently, Jacinda Ardern vis­ited the United States and was a huge hit across a broad spec­trum of po­lit­i­cal per­sua­sions. Most New Zealan­ders were im­mensely proud of what she achieved in the space of just a few days. She was the face and

“That is the cold re­al­ity we face. Ris­ing wealth in Asia is de­mand­ing of high qual­ity, safe and healthy food.”

voice of our coun­try and re­flected who we are and what we stand for. From her United Na­tions for­mal speech to light-hearted late night TV ap­pear­ance she stood out as a mod­ern po­lit­i­cal leader. Even some Aus­tralians wanted to adopt her as their own.

For two decades we have had very sta­ble gov­ern­ment with the Clark, Key, English and now Ardern ad­min­is­tra­tions steer­ing a cen­trist and con­sis­tent path. This plat­form has al­lowed busi­ness, trade and in­dus­try to get on and grow. Not ev­ery­one will agree with ev­ery as­pect of those gov­ern­ment poli­cies or ac­tions but the over­all out­comes have been good for our coun­try.The col­lec­tive con­tri­bu­tion is hav­ing a pos­i­tive and no­tice­able ef­fect.

The trick for us is how do we build on this?

How do we ce­ment our place in the world?

I of­ten quote Ben­jamin Dis­raeli’s fa­mous say­ing “the se­cret of suc­cess is con­sis­tency of pur­pose”…. In other words you have to keep do­ing the right things with suf­fi­cient ef­fort for a pe­riod of time to suc­ceed.

This was prob­a­bly good enough in Ben­jamin’s time in the 1800s but it doesn’t quite get us there to­day.

Most of us agree that NZ and New Zealan­ders have to keep do­ing the right things time and time again to suc­ceed. How­ever, I feel at times we are good at do­ing this but only to a point.

Mod­ern cus­tomers are at­tracted to a good story and we need to get bet­ter at our story telling. The best brand ex­perts do this with ease. It would be bet­ter if we sold less for more and in­vested more into our mar­ket­ing/brand­ing. Re­peat sales are al­ways an in­di­ca­tion of a well-recog­nised brand with a high qual­ity con­sis­tent prod­uct or ser­vice. This is what we need to strive for.

My con­clu­sion is that we have nearly found our place in the world but we are not there yet.

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