Tuesday, 03 July 2018 10:55

Farmers not alone on climate change

Written by  Peter Burke
James Shaw. James Shaw.

Farmers more than any other New Zealanders will be negatively impacted by the effects of climate change, says Climate Change Minister James Shaw.

Speaking to Rural News at Fieldays, Shaw noted how this is already happening -- droughts, floods, fires and storms. He says farmers are not in this alone and he understands that many farmers feel unfairly singled out. 

But Shaw is equally worried that Auckland city’s transport emissions have risen 24% while NZ’s methane emissions have not risen as much. 

He says everyone needs to do their bit and work together. “We know that farmers best understand what happens on a farm and on land,” he says. “I see my job as doing what I can to support farmers and the agricultural sector to make a transition.” 

Shaw believes what is happening now gives NZ one of the greatest opportunities in a generation. Many environmental problems and challenges remain to be overcome, he says, but the solutions are coming in the form of science and technology. As for NZ’s primary exports, they must move from volume to value.

“Science plays a big part with consumers of our food exports. The markets we sell into are getting increasingly sophisticated at the price point we want to attract,” he told Rural News. 

“We are talking about people making decisions based on a whole set of values, not just price, because they are quite prepared to pay a premium. So where their product comes from is becoming increasingly important to them.”

Consumers in some markets are swapping information by cellphone, Shaw says. They photograph the barcode of a product and trace that back to the farm it came from.

“This is amazing and quite a technological challenge for us, but it’s one we are leading the world in. Consumer demand changes all the time and farming in NZ has changed dramatically in response to that demand.” 

Shaw says NZ has adapted well to change and has a good idea of what consumers want.

“We just need to stay closely attuned to that because consumer demand is changing rapidly. We have to pay close attention to innovation and technologies inside NZ and what is happening overseas, to see what we can bring in to serve us well, and to be aware of what could be disruptive.” 

Shaw says while consumers may think specifically about intensive farming when buying milk or beef, they will be looking for some sort of certification to assure them that what they are buying is up to standard.

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