The imperative to move food, medicine, goods, services and information across borders must be honored.


A global pandemic, something never experienced in our lifetime.  It?s times like this, where people and nations realise just how interdependent we all are. 

Many borders are closed.  Government mandates are forcing home isolation and rolling out financial packages, to control Covid19 and mitigate the worst of the economic impacts.  We?re living in uncertain times. 

For those of us on farms, despite disruption, the seasonal rhythm of looking after our livestock and crops continues – to grow food. 

We want to honour those who are on the frontline in the health industry; those working relentlessly to keep logistics and supply of food to supermarkets; and government officials trying to make it all work.

The drastic interruption to life as it was, has permeated through society.  People are fearful: food security for their households and the health and wellbeing of their families the highest priorities. 

The message not to panic buy was not trusted.  Food production and supply are not the issue.  But consumer demand outstripping logistics and distribution chains to keep supermarket shelves stocked, has ?? partly due to closure of food service.

We?re being reminded of just how we depend on each other to make food and medicine available.  Of importance is open borders, freedom to trade, and diversification of markets. 

Seven Governments including New Zealand just last week committed to maintain trade links and supply chains. They said in a joint statement ?We affirm the importance of refraining from the imposition of export controls or tariffs and non-tariff barriers and of removing any existing trade restrictive measures on essential goods?? We are committed to working ?? to ensure that trade continues to flow unimpeded.??

New Zealand is a promoter of the rules-based trading system, and plurilateral, multilateral and bilateral trade.  We have many trade agreements.  This has enabled market diversification and helped our food export sectors weather the storms. 

This trade approach is essential to our business.  It is also critical for our economy, our people, and mirrored by the needs of countries, businesses and people around the world.

China, the first to shut its borders in a bid to control Covid19, is important to New Zealand.  We were the first OECD country to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China, signed in 2008.  Over the years as this FTA has matured, we?ve seen increase of New Zealand trade patterns and export receipts with China ?? largely in Tourism and Agricultural exports. 

The New Zealand tourism, and food and fibres sectors really have been the pillars of our economy for some years.  They are New Zealand?s biggest export earners.

The impacts of the Chinese border closure on some New Zealand exporters were felt immediately.  The lucrative Rock Lobster trade, effectively shut overnight had significant ramifications for fishing businesses in New Zealand.  We also saw a large reduction of Chinese tourists which put pressure on most tourism businesses.  For many in forestry, this shock forced business owners to lay off logging crews.  The disruption didn?t end there.  

Ports, warehousing and distribution networks in China ground to a halt and the impacts were felt by all other New Zealand food and fibre export sectors. 

Thankfully, other food sectors such as dairy and meat had far more diversity of markets and though not immune to the Covid19 China shock, were able to move some product to other markets around the world ?? a relief to us as food producers.

Cattle grazing in New Zealand on the Poulton family farm.

Thankfully, other food sectors such as dairy and meat had far more diversity of markets and though not immune to the Covid19 China shock, were able to move some product to other markets around the world ?? a relief to us as food producers.

New Zealand horticulture and viticulture businesses are starting to enter peak harvest, and are working to mitigate labour, logistics, and market disruption. 

We are now seeing signs of China recovery from the virus with people entering work again.  This is great news. Chinese ports are starting to move containers, trucks are moving product, consumers are beginning to buy. 

However, the impacts of the virus in other countries, is now having a second wave of effects in China where their ability to export is being just as disrupted as New Zealand trade was when China shut down.  The knock-on effects will be felt for some time. We are all deeply interconnected. 

There is, and will be, a re-set of how we live, do business and trade.  We have to ensure food security, remove trade restrictive barriers, support the ports, logistics and distribution systems, safeguard the labour to undertake harvest & processing work, and the support services enabling it all.

??He waka eke noa?? – ??We?re all in this together?.  And as such we need to navigate our way through this ?? government to government, business to business and farmer to farmer ?? domestically and internationally. 

Food production, supply, and all that enables it is critical globally.  It is this functioning interdependency that will provide nutritious food for good health and sustenance to people everywhere. 

Mel Poulton

Mel Poulton

Mel and her husband Mike operate a 2500 acres beef and sheep business. Their livestock is 100% grass fed. Over 95% of their farm product (lamb, beef and wool) is exported. The business also has a sheep stud, breeding Perendale composite rams.

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