quinta-feira, fevereiro 24, 2005
Miracle Down Under: How New Zealand Farmers Prosper without Subsidies or Protection
In the past two decades, New Zealand farmers have moved from an environment in which we were subsidized and the government dictated the type of agricultural goods produced to one in which we farm without subsidies. The clear focus for us now is on the consumer. That is the real reason we are in business: to serve the consumer, not the government
The major development for the New Zealand agricultural sector was that, after enduring the pain of that long transition, responsibility for farming returned to the farmer. So the government was no longer involved in our lives. The key issue that we had to grapple with very quickly was that there was only one component important to farm income, and that was satisfying the consumer. We used to satisfy government officials in what they wanted. We had 70 million sheep and another 50 million lambs, of which the meat industry rendered, in one year, six million lambs into blood and bone (a fertilizer product) because nobody wanted them. In the worst days of the post-deregulation period, in a drought in the Canterbury region of New Zealand, farmers were getting only $6 a lamb. Now we actually focus on the consumer. Processors now pass on clear market signals and give farmers higher returns. The farmer now provides exactly what the consumer wants in the most cost-effective manner. Now, by meeting market specifications, we get between $60 and $100 a lamb depending on the time of year the lamb is supplied.
The other positive result of the reform process was that farmers began to better fit their agricultural production to the type of land that they farmed. If you don?t have a really good fit with the type of land you are on, your resources are used inefficiently, and then you can?t get your costs low enough to be competitive. New Zealand has reduced the number of sheep from 70 million down to 40 million, but we produce roughly the same amount of sheep meat. We increased our dairy herd from roughly 3 million cows to now more than 5 million in response to the market demand for protein products. We?ve seen a huge diversification of land use in the last 20 years. In the good old days, people just would not have believed what farmers were capable of when everybody just wanted us to produce another lamb.
Farmers have continued to diversify, to change, and to accept that we not only need access to markets and consumers, but we also need an incredibly competitive internal economy. We need to be able to adjust our cost structures quickly to deal with the volatility of climate, product price, and, in a small country like New Zealand, the exchange rate. But we are happy to accept these risks and uncertainty because by facing these risks we make far better decisions. And we?re not blaming anyone else; we only have to rely on ourselves to get on with the job.
posted by Miguel Noronha 3:14 da tarde