What NZ farms can tell us about life after Brexit – The Property Chronicle
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What NZ farms can tell us about life after Brexit

The Farmer


The subsidies disappeared all at once – but farming on the bottom of the world is more profitable than ever

The prospect of Britain’s departure from the Europe an Union is creating demand for comparative analyses o understand what life could be like on the outside. It is particularly instructive to compare British farming, which has significant government and EU intervention, with that of New Zealand – which is subsidy-free. 

There are striking similarities. There are also aspects of British (and European) farming that are arguably ahead of New Zealand – as well as areas where New Zealand farming is unarguably stronger. 

Two countries with a lot in common

First, the similarities. Britain and New Zealand are both endowed with excellent soils, maritime climates and broadly similar farmland resources – though NZ produces a wider range of produce, extending as it does from almost sub-arctic to sub-tropical latitudes.

Both produce premium quality foods for demanding middle-class consumers – the UK primarily for its domestic market; NZ, for middle-class consumers across Asia, Europe, America and the Middle East.

Both countries are developing environmental strategies for their land-use sectors. In the UK this builds on the Environmental Stewardship Pillar of the EU CAP – which provides a base from which new proposed environmental services payments can be extended when (or perhaps, given Westminster wrangling, if) Brexit takes place.

Irrespective of Brexit tussles, the UK’s farming and food industry is showing impressive environmental ambitions. 

At the Oxford Farming Conference in early 2019, Minette Batters, President of the NFU, outlined plans for British farmers to achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2040 or earlier.

NZ’s not dissimilar environmental measures have their origins in the country’s efforts to be ‘clean and green’, leading the world in standards on GHG, water, and management of biodiversity.

NZ takes its Paris commitments seriously. The country has committed to establishing an average of 100 million new trees per annum over ten years. Assuming half are on degraded land, this will be a gain of 500,000 hectares in the NZ forest estate. Craigmore Sustainables has a major focus on forestry and hopes to contribute over 50,000 hectares to that afforestation.

NZ, like the EU, has decided not to release GM into its food production sector. Its customers simply do not want GM food. NZ farming, though strongly science-based and innovative, is ultimately market-led – and decided not to grow something its customers did not want. 

More generally, both the UK and NZ are addressing the ‘de-commoditisation’ of a sector that is now moving to ‘healthful nutrition’ (in the widest sense, including environmental health).

The Farmer

About Forbes Elworthy

Forbes Elworthy

Forbes was brought up on Craigmore Station in the South Island of New Zealand and worked as a shepherd in the early part of his career. He then trained in Agricultural Economics at Lincoln University in New Zealand where he was student president in 1984. He went to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar in 1985. After some time at Goldman Sachs he completed an MBA at Harvard Business School in 1992. Forbes worked as a credit trader at Merrill Lynch from 1992 to 1999 where he headed a convertibles trading desk. He then led financial information publisher Credit Market Analysis which was acquired by Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Forbes returned full time to farming in 2005 to live on and manage Craigmore Station – a sheep, beef and deer property farmed by the Elworthy family since 1864.   From 2009 Forbes partnered with his brother-in-law Mark Cox to create Craigmore Sustainables, a specialist manager of farms and forests in New Zealand. Since 2014 he has been leading a Craigmore sponsored farm information management company called Map Of Agriculture. It provides software and farm data integration systems to help over 80 AgBusinesses including Centre for Dairy Excellence in New Zealand and McDonalds Restaurants in the UK connect to and assist their networks of farms. 

Articles by Forbes Elworthy

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