We started 2018 with much of the country in drought and just in the last month we’ve seen significant flooding. Despite early forecasts suggesting another dry summer ahead, the recent heavy rain and an updated forecast of a much weaker El Niño seems to suggest that we hopefully won’t see a repeat of last summer’s relentless dry.
Beyond dealing with the fickle nature of the weather, there’s been the additional stress for those who have been dealing with the Mycoplasma bovis incursion. While there has been encouraging progress in the eradication response, it’s been a difficult time for farmers who have had infected herds or are under movement restrictions.
Just as it’s been busy on farm, it’s been the same at Beef + Lamb New Zealand too. From the launches of our alternative proteins report and our Environment Strategy, to the unveiling of Taste Pure Nature and working on the Mycoplasma bovis response, there’s been a lot of good work going on to position our sector to take advantage of the opportunities ahead of us.
We also had the levy consultation mid-year where we were encouraged by the strong support farmers gave us for the direction Beef + Lamb New Zealand is travelling in and the investment needed to realise that. Thank you for your support and faith in us.
The pace looks set to continue in 2019 too. There are major policy issues being worked on at the moment around climate change and water quality. We’re collaborating across the sector to help the government develop policies that support outcomes that benefit both New Zealanders and work for you as farmers. They’re both highly technical areas and ones that are hugely important to New Zealanders and our customers overseas.
On a related note, our Taste Pure Nature origin brand is set to launch in the United States in the first quarter of 2019. Underpinned by our Environment Strategy and initiatives like the New Zealand Farm Assurance Programme, Taste Pure Nature will help significantly lift the profile of New Zealand’s pasture-fed, free range, sustainably raised red meat. We are also working on a strategy for launching Taste Pure Nature in China, another key market.
Uncertainty also abounds with regards to Brexit, trade tensions between the US and China, and the growth of protectionist trade practices. Despite this, the fundamentals of our industry remain sound with demand likely to remain strong and the New Zealand dollar looking to remain favourable.
It’s been a steep learning curve as a new chairman, but with Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s new strategy and the calibre of the team we have built and their passion for the sheep and beef sector, we’re excited about the opportunities ahead and will keep working hard for you – our levy payers.
All of this combined reinforces how important it is to get some well deserved rest and relaxation these holidays. Get off farm if you can, spend time with family and friends, and make sure to look after yourselves. Our industry is only possible because of the hard work of those involved, and it’s important that we look after ourselves and take a break when the opportunity presents itself.
Finally, thank you for everything you do. Farming is about much more than just producing food. It’s about our families, the communities we live in, and a way of life that is unique in the world. As I’ve gone to different events around the country this year, I’ve met so many passionate and hardworking farmers who are rising to the challenges facing us and making a real difference in their communities, and I’m looking forward to meeting even more of you next year.
Merry Christmas, a happy new year, and I look forward to speaking with you in 2019.