From the first shipment of frozen meat from Picton in 1882 until the UK joined the then common market in 1972 New Zealand agricultural success was mainly based on supplying British consumers.
At a stroke British PM Ted Heath dropped the New Zealanders, who had stood by the UK in good times and bad, in favour of helping create a more stable Europe, where young lives were no longer lost in Flanders Fields or on Normandy beaches.
Addressing the NI British Blue Cattle Club guest speaker Alex Thompson recalled how this impacted on Kiwi farmers. The whole rural economy went into free fall and eventually all government support was ended. The country simply could not afford farm subsidies.
“Becoming efficient, competitive and innovative was the only way to survive,” noted Alex who farms on Islandmagee and visits his daughter and her Kiwi husband on their NZ beef and sheep farm.
“Some NZ farmers did not survive the sudden end of government support and easy access to the 60 million consumers of the UK. But today this Pacific nation of four million has one of the most successful agri food sectors in the world.
“One can visit an ultra efficient 2,000 acre beef and sheep unit that has less capital tied up in machinery and concrete than a 100 acre holding in Ulster.”
Looking ahead Alex hopes farmers in the UK, most of whom voted for Brexit, can prove equally adept at meeting changing circumstances if they loose access to the European mainland market. Brexit will certainly see the end of CAP style support for farming as the cabinet are planning for low cost food imports to reduce the risk of civil unrest.
NZ farmers now export to the booming economies of SE Asia, but fear a bad Brexit will disrupt world trade if it results in damage to the economies of the current 28 EU members, especially our own. In the past NZ, as a small nation, has been bullied in trade deals by large nations and power blocks not least the USA. They fret that this may happen again?
In discussion Alex Thompson suggested that part of British farmers’ response to a post Brexit crisis must include greater use of top class terminal sires, be that British Blues up grading calves from dairy and suckler cows or Texels the lambs from hill and lowland sheep alike.
Conducting the election of office bearers Alex Thompson congratulated Blue breeders on their success in making their breed the ultimate beef terminal sire. The standard of Blues here was reflected by success in regional and national sales.
Basil Dougherty of Kircubbin was praised for his efforts as chairman and re-elected by popular acclamation. Oliver McCann from Castlewellan was also strongly encouraged to resume his post as vice chair,
Others in this successful team of office bearers chosen to voluntarily serve their fellow farmers for another term were, secretary Annabel Cleland, Downpatrick, treasurer Elizabeth Young, Ballynahinch and PRO Anne Morrison of Armoy.
Chair Basil Dougherty closed this thought provoking meeting with a reminder that entries are closing mid February for the March 29 show and sale in Dungannon.
Looking further ahead Basil called on members to ensure Blues were out in force for Balmoral Show. Breeds that show well, sell well.
For further details of this profit protecting beef breed browse www.britishbluecattle.org