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David Hill's profile picture
Posts: 79

16 December 2017, 9:35 AM

Lincoln University academics have been questioning for years why so much emphasis is placed on securing free trade deals with China and India when such a small percentage of the population is "middle-class", the industry, they say, would be better to focus on producing high quality products for its European markets rather than selling commodity products to the open market.

An article on page 39 (type in 50 instead of 39) of the December 14 edition of New Canterbury News talks about branding and New Zealand's focus on commodity products instead of producing a high quality end product.

I have been to countless farmers' meetings and conferences over the last 7 years where speakers have raved on about feeding the world and often in the same breath lamented the low prices New Zealand farmers are receiving for their products - whether milk powder, lamb, wool or beef. They talk about the cost of transporting products to the other side of the world and hence the need for a premium price to make it worthwhile.

Sometimes you wonder if we are really on the same planet. You cannot feed the world and expect to receive a premium price - you can only do one or the other. The world, or at least the vast majority of people, cannot afford to pay a premium price and most countries are quite capable of producing their own food - even China now produces most of its own dairy products (of course most of the population still doesn't consume dairy products and probably never will!).

There have also been reports recently suggesting that commodity products will soon be competing against synthetics. While most farmers I talk to cringe at the idea and say "who would anyone want to eat that?", it's not rocket science - if a city in the US, for example, can produce most of its own food relatively cheaply with all the proteins and nutrients humans need without polluting the environment, why would you want to import food from the other side of the world.

Of course, there will always be people who want to eat naturally produced food and are willing to pay a premium to get it. Surely that is the only way New Zealand farmers can survive in a sustainable way in the future, producing high quality, high end, branded products in a clean, green environment.

No amount of irrigation and nitrogen poured on to the land is going to give you that. This can also involve working with scientists and creative people as food technology is already a growing field. Otago University has already picked up on this in recent years and developed several courses and research fields - it has been visited communities, A&P shows and was at South Island Agricultural Field Days at Kirwee, near Christchurch, earlier this year with its "Lab in a Box".

Of course, food technology would be counted in the creative sector, rather than the primary sector. But what this shows is that we are all in this together and therefore we all need to think about our downstream effects.

It's not us and them, as DairyNZ likes to portray it. DairyNZ declined our invitation earlier this year to participate in Walk for the Planet - 7 Rivers, 7 Weeks and the film "Seven Rivers Walking". And then in June chief executive Tim Mackle came down to a dairy farmers' conference at Lincoln University (which I covered) where he launched into a scathing attack on "city folk", who, he says, "just don't get it". And now they've decided to launch another propaganda campaign with television advertisements - great engagement folks...

But you are right, David Bell, clean and green has to apply across all sectors. Which is why Walk for the Planet focused on seven rivers this year, both urban and rural.

Next year I will be focusing on one river - I've decided to narrow it down. The Otakaro Avon River - yes a city river - and may even write a book. Though, even the city river is spring fed by groundwater, which passes through rural land, so there really is no separation.

David Bell's profile picture
Posts: 1061

22 December 2017, 9:06 AM

These fascinating posts on what makes a great city can be thought about from an English perspective. The Open University which is located in Milton Keynes runs a similar course on understanding the planning that went into the creation of the city after WW2. What do people today think of this designed city? Answers from a wide variety of perspectives are explored in this video.

David Hill's profile picture
Posts: 79

28 December 2017, 6:28 PM

Thank you all for your feedback, I scored 97% for the course "The City and You: Find Your Best Place"

Thanks University of Toronto and Coursera

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