Archive for 'The week that was'

The week that was…in Kiwi (Agri)-Politics – Week 36

© Digital Trends

© Digital Trends

We have all heard that getting rural New Zealand onto broadband is one of the Government’s – pardon the pun – Key priorities. Too right! Until this week though I had no idea how big a problem this lack of rural broadband was. We employed a new Biosecurity Consultant last week. She is based in the Bay of Plenty, somewhere near Te Puke. And guess what? No broadband worth mentioning. Now we are not talking Reefton here, or Nightcaps, but Te Puke, for goodness sake. The place that proclaims itself as the kiwifruit capital of the world, no less. We are now having to route our new team member’s internet access through a hotspot on her mobile phone. Ridiculous. The sooner that can get sorted the better. And whilst I am not personally involved in the interim ‘sorting’, I am tuned in to the extent that I took particular notice of a 6 o’clock news item tonight.

Under the headline Unpaid ultra fast broadband workers down tools, TVNZ reports on the plight of some broadband installation contractors who have been waiting since July to get paid. As a last resort they have now downed their tools. As if that is not bad enough, two comments in the news item made the hairs in my neck stand up. Firstly, it seems that the problem is blamed on “new accounting software”. Secondly, the Minister responsible for this matter, the Communications & Information Minister Amy Adams, is quoted as saying “she is not aware of the problem.”

Oh boy – haven’t we heard that somewhere before recently?

Given that New Zealand is already behind the eight ball when it comes to modern communication fibre capacity, we don’t need this little caper developing into the next national farce. New Zealand desperately needs to catch up with the real world in this area. Slow internet connections are lethal for our global competitiveness, right across the entire primary industries sector.

© National Party

© National Party

May I suggest therefore that the broad band contractors should be paid via Novopay, the School payroll service.

The Minister of Everything has just managed to sort them out and has whipped them into shape. By getting Novopay to take this on, the taxpayer might get a chance to avoid the broadband contractors buggering off to Australia before the job is finished here.

As for the Communications Minister with the blocked ears…there are a couple of big Fonterra tanks somewhere in the middle of the island that need scrubbing out to make sure no more bits of plastic fall off them, causing AgResearch to run Botulism tests which turn out to be false positives. Now there is a practical communication problem that someone needs to pay close attention to.

The week that was…in Kiwi (Agri)-Politics – Week 35

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New Zealand is being treated to the spectacle of the three stooges candidates for the Labour Party Leadership juggling tripping around the country competing for the votes of party members, with attending Parliamentary question time to demonstrate to their caucus colleagues how they would perform against Prime Minister John Key in the chamber. Each man obviously has their supporters and detractors, and inevitably, they can’t helpful themselves and are wading in to influence the leadership election outcome.  Depending upon whom one listens to then, Shane Jones is therefore being described either as a larrikin with a mini-bar & video channel problem, a healthy male or the shining political light for Tangata Whenua; Grant Robertson’s labels range from graphic descriptors of his sexuality and being an inexperienced ex-diplomat, to gifted debater and consummate caucus unifier; whereas David Cunliffe is simultaneously being referred to as the only hope Labour has got to win the next election and being the soon to be published author of ‘The Dummies’ Guide to Walking On Water.’

Regardless of whether one does care as a  Labour supporter or does not care about Labour Party politics because one typically votes for another party or not at all; or whether one cares deeply for democracy’s sake but  just wishes they would get on with it and ‘stop the circus’ as Australian opposition leader Tony Abbott put it so aptly yesterday; it is time we actually started to look at the views and policies of the organisation rather than the theatrics of the individuals.

At the recent Horticulture New Zealand conference  in Wellington Labour’s Horticulture spokesperson Damien O’Connor spoke and you can find a copy of his address here.

I want to pick up on three points O’Connor made during his address and these relate to leadership, the type of food producer we want to be, and the Primary Growth Partnership programme.

Leadership is essential in any setting where a group of people or organisations are working towards a common goal. Where leadership is lacking or weak, indecisiveness, poor decision-making and under-optimised outcomes are the order of the day. Leadership does not equate to dictatorship nor is leadership the responsibility of a single organisation or individual, particularly not in Horticulture. We are not the meat industry where the export energy ultimately revolves around bits of dead animal being shipped somehow somewhere, in various degrees of pan & pot readiness over a period of time that is not always mission critical.

Horticulture works to a different agenda where the dynamics of, for example, pip fruit, are not always compatible with those of kiwifruit, potatoes or green leafy vegetables. We therefore need to have a clear understanding where we can optimise our leverage through industry wide leadership and where strong sector leadership is more appropriate.

I don’t think we are there yet.

O’Connor outlined the choices of being a low value high volume anonymous commodity producer with low brand equity or a high value, known exporter with high brand equity. If we were really living in an either/or environment, then the choice would be a non-brainer. But life is not as simple as that. Ultimately, we want to be both. We want to export high value fresh produce known for its health and well-being benefits from a country with a reputation for the highest standards in production, post harvest management and food safety (a bit of remedial work required in this area) – and we want to see as many as possible processed FMCG products developed which are fruit or vegetable based and can be enhanced by our produce as opposed to that of other countries.

The lack of a horticultural presence in the Primary Industry Growth partnership programme is in my view a combination of the programme not being as workable for horticulture as it is for other primary industry sectors and a lack of maturity of our industry.  A couple of years back, The AgriChain Centre was part of a consortium that prepared a bid to establish a Primary Industry Growth partnership programme. Our application failed on two grounds. Firstly, the programme is based on the primary production applicant from the outset partnering with an existing value adding multiplier. The weakness of  that approach is that the opportunity for a commodity producer to make the paradigm shift to brand marketer – because that is ultimately where the value can be unlocked O’Connor is talking about – is blocked from the outset as that territory is already occupied by the proposed FMCG partner who is looking for ingredients not an emerging competitor. Secondly, the ‘partnership’ element of the ‘Primary Growth  Partnership’ model requires the applicant to commit to a 50/50 funding model. Our consortium presented an innovative proposal aimed at assisting growers to build value through moving their focus and activities to the value adding territory of the supply chain. This did not fit the narrow prescriptive criteria against which the MPI appointed panel evaluated proposals. Shortly thereafter the kiwifruit vine disease PSA hit the industry with brute force and the lead up to the 2012 compulsory levy vote meant that internal issues gained greater prominence.

Ultimately O’Connor is right though. Horticulture should not be missing in action in the Primary Growth Partnership model – so watch this space.

I found the overviews of O’Connor’s speech provided in the August editions of Orchardist and Grower not truly reflective of the messages he gave. When we do get politicians along to talk to us at a Conference, we need to engage.   And given New Zealand’s MMP electoral system, we may actually indeed find ourselves back with a Labour led Government next year – assuming that the successful one  of today’s Holy Trinity finds his feet and gets on with creating a robust and meaningful Opposition that provides our 2014 voters with a meaningful choice.  And 2014 is next year by the way!

The week that was…in Kiwi (Agri)-Politics – Week34

©2003-2012 - Les Editions Albert-René/Goscinny-Uderzo

©2003-2012 – Les Editions Albert-René/Goscinny-Uderzo

As a youngster, I loved to read Asterix & Obelix comics. As I grew older, I began to appreciate these not just in the German language but also in Latin. The wit contained in these comics is priceless and crosses cultural boundaries. One thing I remember from my extensive study of the series is that there were two people who regularly got into trouble in the Gallic village which kept on defying the Roman empire. The bard Troubardix and the fishmonger Unhygienix. The former was gagged and bound whenever he opened his mouth because he was known for singing out of tune. The latter copped it on occupational grounds. He kept  insisting that his fish were fresh and constantly tried to stick them under peoples’ noses to encourage them to purchase. Invariably, the fish was not fresh and his Gallic friends and neighbours took offence at his crude sales techniques and beat him up.

When I saw the image of New Zealand Labour Party Leader  David Shearer holding up his snapper earlier this week, Unhygienix the fishmonger came to mind straight away.  At least some of the Labour Party caucus must be Asterix fans as well, judging by what happened yesterday. Whilst I don’t know how smelly the snapper were Shearer waved around the debating chamber, it is obvious that someone took offence.

There isn’t just one moral of this story and I leave you to figure which moral fits best for you. From my (agri)-politics perspective the following thought comes to mind: Contaminated milk, irradiated tomatoes and snapper fishing rules disputes are classic examples why Kiwi politicians really need to have a very firm fix on matters relating to the primary industry as it continues to support all our livelihoods. So get with it guys and stop using produce, meat and fish for cheap political stunts. These have a habit of misfiring.

The week that was…in Kiwi (Agri)-Politics – Week32

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A new feature for The AgriChain Centre’s HortSource Blog….and I know that the week is not complete  yet but I would like this contribution to be in your in-trays on a Friday morning…so here we go.

Politics

The New Zealand cabinet will shortly be joined by a Minister for Compensation Payments, judging by the increase in pace of discovering that people serving long prison terms for capital offences might be innocent. This week’s candidate is Teina Pora. Alternatively this new portfolio could be managed by the Minister of Everything, Stephen Joyce. Or could this be a portfolio through which the ex-Minister in charge of bow ties and taxes is rehabilitated because his vote is needed so we can be spied upon?

(Agri)-

I am sorry but the Fonterra explanation about a dirty hose pipe does not wash with me . Professor Steve Flint from Massey University has a wee bit of a problem with it as well. And said so.

Nothing like a crisis though to focus people’s minds.  And on that basis – the Food Bill is now working its way through Parliament’s Select Committee Stages faster than it was anticipated when the Minister was called Wilkinson. I have just finished reading the latest Supplementary Order Paper, all 450 plus pages of it.  There will be changes afoot alright. Any New Zealand food business wanting to understand what’s around the corner in terms of proposed legislation and operational consequences should have a chat with Anne-Marie Arts.

The latest Tomatoes New Zealand Media Release about Irradiated Australian Tomatoes just turned up in my In-Box. Despite there being no compulsory country of origin labelling requirement for fresh produce, “the New Zealand Food Standards Code (FSANZ), which states all food that has been irradiated, or food that contains irradiated ingredients or components, must be labelled or have a label displayed on or close to it stating that it has been treated with ionising radiation” applies, according to Tomatoes New Zealand. Further details on the FANZ site.

We might as well close off with a Fonterra related aspect as well.  It seems that the Pure New Zealand brand is wearing some flak as the whey saga unravels – and understandably though.  What a classical case study though in marketing terms and a jolly good reason why one should think twice before one includes brand value on one’s company balance sheet!