More than one special relationship
I went to a seminar on New Zealand agriculture at New Zealand House in London last week. Interestingly, the company and country representatives positioned themselves as people who know what to do when your system of supports gets pulled out from under you. The New Zealand government eliminated farming subsidies in the 1980s. It also did not help that the UK, which had previously offered guaranteed access to New Zealand, joined the European Economic Area in 1973 to the detriment of the New Zealand export market. In some ways, this meeting is as if your ex-boyfriend shows up as your marriage breaks down.
Nevertheless, this is the help they are offering the UK, as it transitions from the European Union. Basically, we know what you’re going through, because we’ve been there, the assembled said. And farming efficiency is the way forward. As the AHDB says in its report, “The ability of New Zealand agriculture to establish a longer-term recovery was driven by an increased focus on economising and through promotion and application of efficient farming methods.”
Another interesting note was in response to a question about the current UK lack of rainfall. A speaker replied that you don’t make money in a drought, but instead it’s about preserving capital and making efficiencies.
So, as the New Zealanders seek to enhance what they see as a “special relationship” with the UK, I think it would be helpful to accept their help. Basically, the Kiwis have seen the show and bought the t-shirt, when it comes to free markets and even to droughts. And on a journey where the outcome is uncertain and the way forward is not yet visible, it is good to have a friend who can tell you how they did it and what helped.