You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
Normality, though, hides the continued disruption many New Zealand food producers and manufacturers face as they experience delays in ingredient and product transport and associated increasing costs.
I have heard of New Zealand companies bringing more of their production processes back on-shore in an effort to mitigate supply chain uncertainty, and many companies are having to buy ingredients in large amounts, at increased costs, to ensure continued supply.
Internationally, food access continues to cause major problems.
In a recent FAO report, "How to feed the world in times of pandemics and climate change?", it is noted that hunger has been rising in the last five years and that unless action is taken, disease outbreaks and climate extremes will compound and "shake the bed-rock of our agri-food systems."
The report describes priority actions across several areas for change.
One of the actions for strengthening resilience to pandemics is to "diversify food chains to make them less dependent on small numbers of large operators across food systems to better distribute risks from disruptions while managing trade-offs for biosecurity and other sustainability domains".
Essentially, it would be a move against centralisation and globalisation while maintaining the high-quality standard of manufacturing that comes with large- scale operations.
Somewhat poignantly, this report came out as the Indian farmer protests were escalating, highlighting concerns about corporate business models and their application to food systems and food access. Agriculture employs about half of India's 1.3billion people and this, coupled with the unrest of 130million landowning farmers, is an enormous challenge for the Indian Government.
In times of food shortages and insecurity, we cannot afford to implement policies which undermine food producers, even the small ones.
How do we develop efficient, high-quality food systems and manufacturing while supporting local farmers and economies? It is an important question for New Zealanders, too. Farming in New Zealand has challenging decades ahead. Long-term capital growth of land assets, like the capital growth we have seen in residential housing, has made farming a less feasible investment for many young New Zealanders.
Working long, hard physical hours for your own business is quite different from doing so for someone else. Within New Zealand agriculture, we have relied on owner-operators to do the yards. Business models for farm ownership and incentivising young people into food production, needs to be developed, alongside models for housing ownership. If not, we are likely to have an employment crisis on farms and/or a lot more inedible trees planted.
Similarly, if we are to rebuild small and medium-sized manufacturing infrastructure in New Zealand, we will do well to reinvigorate innovation. I hear of negative and anti-competitive behaviour from many of our larger New Zealand corporations, damaging the viability of small enterprise. These behaviours come from supermarkets, meat processors and milk processors, and it's time to do more to re-invest at the entrepreneurial end of the chain. That won't come without failure and it won't come without consumer willingness to back local — so please do.
There is a silver lining to the Covid-19 pandemic: global carbon emissions have dropped by 7% (Global Carbon Project, 2020). According to the FAO report, we have a "a unique opportunity to use the disruptive forces of the Covid-19 pandemic and the associated recovery policies to accelerate the transition to more sustainable and resilient food systems."
That is true globally and it is true locally.
Governments and businesses need to be brave, especially while cash is cheap — food access is a right for all.
■ Anna Campbell is managing director of AbacusBio Ltd, a Dunedin based agri-technology company.