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New Zealand well placed to deliver to Asia's growing protein demand

Why would the amount of rice being eaten in Asia plateauing be good for New Zealand?

Fiona Rotherham
Fri, 15 Apr 2016

Why would the amount of rice being eaten in Asia plateauing be good for New Zealand?

Because Asia's growing middle class is turning from rice to eating protein which is rising in consumption by 5%  annually and New Zealand is well-placed to meet that increased demand, Stefan Hajkowicz, a top scientist on strategic foresight at Australia's federal scientific agency CSIRO said.

Dr Hajkiowicz is the author of the recently-published Global Megatrends, a book that identified six inter-related mega trends including a shift in the world economy from west to east and north to south.

He's in New Zealand for a conference organised by High-Value Nutrition, one of the government's 11 collaborative National Science Challenges which has $84 million in funding over the next 10 years to establish this country as an international leader in food-for-health and to help grow exports by $1 billion by 2025.

Asian consumers turning to a westernised diet are also becoming more choosy about what they eat – looking for nutrition rather than just more calories, he says.

They want to know where their food comes from and are also concerned about food safety with New Zealand and Australia perceived to be safe. Consumers are prepared to pay a premium for products that deliver on that, he said.

Under-delivering on that promise can have a big backlash though, he warned, citing the example of the 2013 scandal when UK supermarkets were found to be selling frozen beefburgers that contained traces of horsemeat.

"There was a loss of trust while sales went up at local butchers that had a trusted relationship with their customers," Dr Hajkowicz said.

New Zealand dairy producers benefited after the 2008 melamine scandal in China, which led to a loss of consumer trust in locally produced milk and milk products.

"Almost 10 years on, that loss of trust has stayed. There's been exponential growth in New Zealand dairy exports since 2005, and during that period it developed an FTA with China, which has to sign these trade deals because it can't feed itself."

He said New Zealand should apply its tourism 100% Pure campaign to the agricultural industry and back up that clean, green image with science validation to add a premium to exports.

The flipside though is any part of NZ Inc that fails to deliver on that promised trust, will cause a backlash against the whole country, he said.

Bruce German, director of the Foods for Health Institute in the US, said New Zealand was in a unique position to be a world leader in foods for health with a concept of integrated farm-to-fork initiative.

"New Zealand is in a strong position to move both ways – farm to fork and fork to farm", he said.

New Zealand also has an opportunity to tap into the digital revolution when marketing its food exports that will enable food producers to close the geographic gap and be like the local butcher, Hajkowicz said.

"When a Shanghai customer goes to the supermarket they could swipe their smartphone over a kiwifruit and get a picture of where it was grown, what happened on the way to market, what part of New Zealand it was from, what treatment it got when it landed in that country – it could even include an opportunity to talk to that farmer," he said.

Using digital technology and sensory systems to secure supply chains will be increasingly important and there's also a business opportunity in developing those digital systems as well as personalised high-nutrition food, he said.

"It's a bit of a gold rush with the market opportunity opening. New Zealand is being smart as a first mover in high-value nutrition but it's not just happening in New Zealand or Australia. Anyone can get into this market."


Fiona Rotherham
Fri, 15 Apr 2016
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New Zealand well placed to deliver to Asia's growing protein demand