New Zealand’s landscape was used in the filming of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movie trilogies for a reason – the natural scenery is stunning.  That landscape is also home to highly productive agriculture, and for an island nation of less than five million inhabitants much of what is produced needs to be sold to overseas customers.

Thus, trade is vital for the country and New Zealand is universally seen as one of the international community’s strongest supporters of free trade with one of the most open market economies.

GFN is fortunate to have a few members from NZ and this and this week’s perspective is from one of them… Mel Poulton and her husband Mike operate a family farm business raising sheep and beef in the Tararua district of the country’s North Island.  Mel participated in the 2017 Global Farmer Roundtable and was kind enough to share some thoughts, and a few fantastic farm photos with us, including the featured one above with the grazing sheep in the distance…

 

Global Farmer Network member – Mel Poulton, Tararua District, New Zealand.

Mel speaking to a group of urban women about farming in Des Moines (Oct 2017).

 

Question:  The dictionary defines trade as both a ‘noun’ and a ‘verb’ – both definitions describe the action of selling goods and services. How important is trade -and the ability to access markets- to your farming operation?

Answer:  Trade is critical to our farming operation, it is critical to our local rural community, our district, and our country – New Zealand.  More than 90% of the food and fibre we produce on this farm is exported to many different markets across the globe.

 

 Question:  When talking about trade, emphasis is often placed on the ability to sell products and services (exports). Trade also covers what we buy. How important it the ability to purchase goods and services for your farm (imports)?  For example, what are some items that you purchase and/or import that are necessary for your farming operation to be profitable?

Answer:  A considerable amount of our farm inputs (fertilizer, animal health products, vehicles, finance etc) are all sourced from markets offshore.   We wouldn’t be able to produce food & fibre as efficiently as we do without being able to import (indirectly) those farm inputs.

 

Question:  In your opinion, how important are trade agreements to your farm? To your community. To your country?

Answer:  New Zealand has a strong history of negotiating and implementing both trade agreements and Free Trade Agreements, our whole nation critically depends on these trade agreements in order for our economy to function.  The simple reality is that if we don’t have trade agreements, the impacts of high tariffs, non tariff barriers, etc will have significant economic ramifications, affecting employment, communities, our local schools and the nation. 

Cattle grazing in New Zealand on the Poulton family farm.

 

Question:  What type of infrastructure is needed to efficiently move products in and out of your farming operation?

Answer:  In New Zealand we are very fortunate to have a roading and port infrastructure that works very effectively for the movement of products in and out of our farming operation.  That said, it is not just the core infrastructure of roads and ports that are important – also the industry infrastructure of rural service providers, the export and import agents, and the government by which the movement of products is enabled.

 

 Question:  We are talking a lot about tariffs and trade wars all around the world right now.  Are there other barriers to trade (non-tariff barriers) that are impacting your farming operation that are of concern to you?

Answer:  Given New Zealand’s complete and necessary exposure to global trade, the geopolitical shifts and plays by many different countries certainly has ramifications for our farming operation in New Zealand.  We may not be front and centre to the trade wars of the USA and China, or the Brexit from the EU, or the tussle of NAFTA, but these are all examples of offshore issues that have both a direct and indirect impact to some degree to our farming operation here in NZ.  On the one hand this creates challenges for us, but it also creates opportunities.  We may think we are an isolated small island nation in the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, but the reality is that we are thoroughly integrated in a world trade system where we are impacted irrespectively.  Our task as a trading nation is utilise our strengths as a small nation, to be nimble, flexible and seize those opportunities that rise from changes in the global trade arena.

 

Question:  In one or two sentences, what message do you want to send your country’s trade negotiators / policy leaders regarding the importance and impact of trade access or barriers on your farming operation and the broader community?

Answer:  On trade agreements – Thanks, you are doing a great job, keep up the good work.  On policy – ensure you partner properly with farmers at the table to influence global policy and trade for all things food and fibre.