The attached article NZH_Agribusiness_July2017_4 was commissioned by The New Zealand Herald and published 20 July 2017 within their annual Agribusiness Supplement.
The NZ Herald is the main Auckland newspaper. Accordingly, the article was written for a largely urban audience.
The urban community which dominates within New Zealand society has diverse and often negative opinions about the dairy industry, but typically this is based on limited knowledge. Many of these urban folk do recognise that dairy underpins much of the export economiy on which New Zealand depends, but there is an increasing overarching perspective that New Zealand has become too dependant on dairy.
In writing the article, my aim was to introduce readers to some of the challenges that the dairy industry faces, but to do so from a perspective that there are indeed pathways forward.
Addendum of 29 July 2017
In the NZ Herald article I wrote about my concern that industry leaders will remain defensive rather than pro-active. The response of Fonterra Chairman John Wilson to my article, as reported online by Farmers Weekly on 28 July 2017, was as follows.
Wilson took issue with dairy commentator Keith Woodford, who wrote recently that the NZ dairy industry was in a pickle with the wrong cows, the wrong dairy systems, the wrong product mix, a raft of environmental issues and too much debt.
Woodford said overcapacity in whole milk powder plants was a blind alley because only developing countries used it.
Wilson said the reality was NZ dairy farming efficiency was based on the pasture curve, integrated from the farmgate to the market through a co-operative.
“That has been the case for generations, and it is why we are the most efficient and often the best-paid dairy farmers in the world.
“We take that huge volume of milk in the spring and convert that effectively into a high-quality product, by taking the water out.
“That powder is exported, often to our own businesses, to turn into high-quality dairy products.
“At the same we are driving for higher-value products – for consumers, food service or higher-level ingredients.
“We can only do that because we can deal efficiently with those high volumes of milk off farms.
“Both have to be done, not one or the other.
“Fonterra doesn’t build commodity plants – it builds high-quality ingredients plants, and the products are used around the world,” Wilson said.