Conference warned of future threat to dairy

Speakers at the Horizons Livestock Sciences Conference in Christchurch this morning left no doubt that Dairy will remain one of the fastest growing industries in New Zealand, but one speaker warned that the global dairy industry would eventually face …

Conference warned of future threat to dairy industry

30 October 2008

Speakers at the Horizons Livestock Sciences Conference in Christchurch this morning left no doubt that Dairy will remain one of the fastest growing industries in New Zealand, but one speaker warned that the global dairy industry would eventually face some fierce competition from the soybean industry.

Addressing the question of “Value vs Volume”, the Managing Director and CEO of the Synlait Group, Dr John Penno, said soy as a protein substitute would influence the dairy industry in the future, unless the industry could find ways to transform the value of its product. “Soy can be produced much more efficiently on scales we can’t even comprehend, and as soy products are being developed to more and more resemble dairy products, there is a danger that it can become a substitute for most dairy products.”

Dr Penno says New Zealand’s dairy industry will have to find ways that can meaningful differentiate its products from others on the international markets. “This is a 20 year strategy. We need to exploit the bundle of benefits that is uniquely New Zealand – things that we take for granted like a healthy environment, healthy lifestyles and healthy and safe food. All of these attributes have to be wrapped up in real products with substance,” he says.

He says there is a challenge ahead for scientists working on adding value to dairy food products. “We are going to compete with an easier to produce and cheaper soy product. You have to start working now on the results we need to make sure our dairy products remain the consumers’ choice.”

Putting aside the potential threat of soybeans to the dairy industry, the future of the industry seems to be bright. Both Dr Penno and Fonterra Milk Supply Director, Barry Harris agree that the global demands for dairy products are growing at a healthy rate.

Therefore, says Barry Harris, that while it is also necessary to increasingly look at ways to add value to the product, volume will remain critically important to the dairy industry’s success in the future.

About 150 scientists and agribusiness leaders from Australia and New Zealand are attending the three day conference in Christchurch, which is jointly hosted by AgResearch and CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) Livestock Industries.

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