There is nothing quite like a trip abroad to put some perspective on the state of the UK. And my recent two-week venture to New Zealand was no exception. Speaking to farmers, manufacturers and Ministers, it was fascinating to hear their views on Brexit, our Government and their overall perception of the UK, which highlighted just what a laughing stock our illustrious leaders in Westminster have become.
With a Government more shaky than the first two houses blown down by the big bad wolf, it is hard to imagine any Brexit negotiations, hard or soft, getting off to a good start. Brexit has to be seen as an opportunity for the UK.
As New Zealand showed with its abolition of subsidies in the 1980s, now is our time to rejuvenate the industry and enter a world of business-focused farming enterprises, where consumers, who are more informed than ever, are at the centre of all decision making.
While this may sound daunting for traditional farmers in the UK, my findings in New Zealand showed how many farmers have embraced technology to help find significant efficiency gains. And it was not just youthful farmers with fresh ideas; older generations were just as open to new ideas, especially when both the bottom line and lifestyle can be improved as a result.
An abundance of this type of technology was on show at the country’s Fieldays event (see p88-91), much of which is being developed by New Zealand businesses and is now being adopted on these shores. But it did not get here by accident.
As a country which is relatively isolated, it was impressive to see how the New Zealand Government offers support to its small ag-technology businesses to develop them abroad. While the UK boasts some of the most innovative companies in the world, I cannot help but feel our firms do not get the same sort of support from our Government.
Granted, geographical location will have a lot to do with this, but as Brexit negotiations begin in earnest, now is the time to show the world what we are capable of.