International Agrifood Policy Analyst Acknowledges Kiwi Entrepreneurial Spirit
Food & Fibre
Food & Fibre

International Agrifood Policy Analyst Acknowledges Kiwi Entrepreneurial Spirit

Antony So is a London-based policy analyst specialising in agri-food and food systems. He recently came over to New Zealand to take a look at some of the farming and food supply systems used in Aotearoa with the possibility of bringing some knowledge back to the UK.

So shares his experiences and observations from his recent trip, providing a nuanced understanding of the country's agricultural landscape and its integration into the global food supply chain. 

A key talking point of the conversation revolves around the unexpected scale of New Zealand's dairy industry and its international influence. 

"New Zealand is very entrepreneurial and is very focused on feeding the wider world... that really struck me." 

He also touches on the complexities of food imports and the surprising reliance of New Zealand on foreign products, highlighting the intricate labelling he encountered in a Tauranga supermarket, which underscored the country's integration into global markets. 

So and Dominic delve into the interdependencies of global agriculture, where events like favourable weather in North America can trigger a cascade of effects across continents. A New Zealand farmer explained to So that such conditions can lead to an oversupply of beef globally, influencing Australian and New Zealand meat markets. 

"It really is a reality that farmers in New Zealand do think about... just how interconnected it is." 

The discussion also covers the environmental and health debates surrounding plant-based foods versus animal proteins and lab-grown meats. So points out the challenges of defining and regulating ultra-processed foods, noting the paradox where meat alternatives are, by definition, ultra-processed. He acknowledges the difficulty in predicting the future of food.

"Making these sorts of predictions is always going to be a fool's game." 

The geopolitical aspects of food supply are underscored by So's commentary on the Black Sea grain initiative, which emerged as a rare point of cooperation between Russia and Ukraine amidst conflict, and the role of Turkey as a pivotal player in the agreement. They also contemplate potential disruptions in regions like the Middle East, where the Suez Canal remains a critical food trade route.

Lastly, So provides insights into the UK's current food regulatory challenges, such as the controversy around precision breeding through gene editing, which is accepted in England but faces opposition in Scotland and Wales. As the UK approaches an election, these issues are particularly salient. 

Overall, the conversation paints a comprehensive picture of the global intricacies of food production, trade, and regulation, inviting listeners to reconsider the journey their food takes from farm to table and the myriad of factors that influence it.

Listen to the full chat between Antony So and Dominic George above.

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