Speech to DRC Food Security and Food Safety Strategy Summit

  • Nathan Guy
Primary Industries

Distinguished guests,

It is my pleasure to speak here today. I want to thank the Development Research Centre (DRC) for inviting me here to participate at this Summit.

Today I will discuss the role that New Zealand, as a regional partner in the Asia Pacific, can play with China in meeting the challenges of food security and food safety.

As China liberalises its economy and raises living standards, its demand for raw materials and food for its 1.3 billion population will have a significant impact on global agricultural markets.

All agricultural producing nations have an interest in a strong China. As China looks to move away from a solely manufacturing-driven economy to one propelled jointly by agriculture, manufacturing and services, New Zealand can be a practical partner to support this change.

Background on NZ

We have a lot to offer because we are an agricultural and food producing nation.

The wider primary sector – including agriculture, horticulture, forestry and fisheries make up around three quarters of our merchandise exports.

We have been exporting food around the world since 1888 and have built a strong reputation for quality and safety.

New Zealand is a natural cooperation partner for China not only in the provision of safe, quality food, but also as a leading provider of agricultural technology solutions.

Through our two countries strong agricultural cooperation we are currently exploring ways in which to promote and encourage closer collaboration between government agencies, universities, research institutions, associations and private enterprise.

We already have strong ties at many levels. New Zealand was the first OECD nation to sign a Free Trade Agreement with China in 2008 and it has been a major success, benefitting both nations.

Global challenges of food security and food safety

There is no doubt that the world needs to produce more food, in a sustainable and safe manner. The growth in the world’s population has put a strain not only on the amount of food demanded but also on global supply chains.

We know the world population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, and some forecasts predict global food demand may increase by 40-45 percent in the next 10 years.

Consumers are also demanding more of their food, of how it is produced and the businesses that produce it. This is compounded with new technologies, multinational investment and more complicated logistics and transport systems, and globally sourced food ingredients.

These challenges are not just the problem of one country alone; these are global challenges that demand global solutions.

As a small, but forward looking nation, New Zealand is known for its ability to adapt and be innovative. In 1984, we removed agricultural subsidies. Back then we had around 70 million sheep, now we have only 30 million. Yet importantly, we still produce the same amount of sheep meat thanks to advances in animal husbandry, genetics, and nutrition.

Our strength lies in our ability to collaborate, to bring many partners into the room to cooperate to find a solution. 

Global partners can support a complete food policy

At the heart of an importing country’s sustainable food security policy is the need to know that the food supply chain is secure and safe for its nation’s consumers. 

A complete food security policy goes far beyond the food that we can produce within our borders. To ensure that there is secure food supply, and to offer the options of food that globalised consumers demand, local production must be supported by imported food from trusted global partners.

To assure consumers that their food is safe, both the exporting and importing countries must demonstrate that food safety can be achieved in various ways, and that systems are comparable. They must rely on assurances from each other that their food is safe and this requires regular communication, transparency and trust between the two countries. 

Security should extend from the farm to the fork. Consumers pay closer attention to food production now than ever before. They expect more of producers; whether it’s environment sustainability, animal welfare, biosecurity, traceability and product stewardship.

Climate change is expected to have an impact on food supplies. Water will become less available in some regions.  More storms and adverse weather events are likely – all of which will impact on food production. 

All countries need to work to ensure their agricultural systems are resilient and adaptable.  This is as important in New Zealand as it is in China.

New Zealand leading food security and food safety

New Zealand has built a robust and effective food export system through decades of investment in systems that deliver quality outcomes. Our regulatory system works to implement best practice and globally accepted standards throughout the supply chain.

Alongside this, we have worked to support global regulatory framework. These are achieved either through multilateral agreements, such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), or a network of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), and through Codex.

As an exporting nation – we export over eighty percent of all food we produce and feed 40 million people - our reputation must be maintained throughout the supply chain. Protecting the integrity of food and the reputation of a brand throughout the process has now become the central discussion amongst regulators and industry in New Zealand.

A good proportion of these exports are now dairy - representing 20 percent of New Zealand exports. Our market reach isn’t by accident – it is the result of many years of effort and innovation.

Food safety, quality systems and innovation drive the New Zealand dairy industry, which has led to a dramatic increase in productivity over the past decade. This increase is largely the result of genetic gains and improved farm management practices, including improvements in livestock health and nutrition. 

Increases in productivity are also critical to help mitigate climate change. We need to produce more food with less greenhouse gas emissions. New Zealand is proud to work with China and other countries in the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases to address this global challenge.

New Zealand as an agricultural cooperation partner

New Zealand is an emerging leader in the provision of agricultural technology solutions, including for countries that increasingly need to feed growing populations. We recognise that increased trade is not just about more products being exported, it’s about an exchange of knowledge, expertise, technology and services, and investment.

Our primary sectors are becoming increasingly interconnected through two-way investment and lengthening supply chains. Building our own capacity in isolation is not enough – we need to work with our partners to ensure a stable supply of food for our region.

Strengthening cooperation is a major focus of New Zealand’s and China’s ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’. We are focussed on consolidating and expanding cooperation in agriculture, including strengthening cooperation in trade, supporting the capability-building of China’s dairy sector, and implementing the new Food Supervisory and Traceability Cooperation Programme.

This has been evidenced by the significant number of cooperation programmes that we have targeted to China’s agricultural goals in areas where New Zealand has world class expertise.

In particular, we have focused our efforts on technical cooperation in dairy, as China seeks to consolidate the recent gains it has made in the productivity and commercialisation of its dairy sector.

The Agricultural Growth Partnership

New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries has also developed the China-New Zealand Agricultural Growth Partnership and is working closely with China’s Ministry of Agriculture.

This partnership is designed to ensure China has access to New Zealand’s world leading agricultural human capability - tertiary, scientific, research, and government senior experts.

Agricultural infrastructure in Asia Pacific

New Zealand is also cooperating to improve the agricultural infrastructure of the Asia Pacific region and through our participation in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

The ‘One belt, one road’ policy calls for greater cooperation to increase the infrastructural development of the region. Its five goals of: policy coordination, enhanced connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and increased people-to-people links, are all shared by New Zealand.


New Zealand cannot focus on simply developing our own robust food safety system in isolation. 

There is an interdependency between China’s and New Zealand’s industries in terms of food security and food safety. New Zealand is committed to strengthening our relationships in China. That’s why I’m here to represent the New Zealand Government, and build on the strong working relationship we have built between our governments over many decades.

I understand there is a Chinese proverb – “when you drink the water, remember with thanks the man that dug the well”.  We all need to ‘dig the well’ now and create the environment and infrastructure now - so our future generations can benefit from a secure and safe food supply as we do today.

I commend the DRC for organising this Summit, so that we may continue to share our learnings and work towards greater cooperation.