As our largest export earner, an employer of 50,000 people and with expected export revenue of $16.8b for the year to June 2018, the dairy industry must be supported as a highperforming, innovative and sustainable industry.
This is why this Government will undertake a comprehensive review of the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act this year and I encourage you to have a say.
Terms of reference for the review, to be led by the Ministry for Primary Industries, will be finalised soon and publicised to create the most robust debate possible. The review is important because the dairy sector is vital to New Zealand and we want it to be on the best footing possible.
You are all well aware of the key issues facing the dairy sector, including environmental impact, Fonterra’s obligations to collect milk, flatlining milk growth, and consumer demand for sustainable food production. The review will also be important for other milk companies, including Westland Milk Products, which recently partnered with Southern Pastures to take four million kilograms of milk solids a year. The partnership is one example of how the sector is adapting over time to meet the issues facing it.
New Zealand’s ability to sustainably produce high-quality, nutritious food for a growing global population is crucial to our economic future. Reaching higher up the value chain we can continue to deliver what international consumers demand and in a way that is sustainable and leverages our competitive edge as quality food producers.
The dairy sector workforce must share in these returns. As one smart farmer recently put it: “First we look after the people, then they’ll look after the animals and everything else will follow.” He realised he had an unhappy workforce – they didn’t want to own a farm or go sharemilking; they wanted to put their kids through school and buy a house. So he created job-sharing flexibility for couples, which paid off with increased productivity and happier workers.
He said: “I used to think I couldn’t find anyone but when you start listening to people and giving them what they want, you find people.”
Talking to farming families around the country over the past few months, I’ve been impressed by their ideas for the future and their keenness to improve farming operations.
The dairy industry has faced tough challenges recently, including the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak and both cyclones and drought. I want to thank you for your perseverance and for working together with the Ministry for Primary Industries, the Rural Support Trusts and others on the ground.
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy April 2018