KMPG: What is it that makes Agribusiness great?

New Zealand agribusiness is held in high regard around the world. It is also an important industry: agriculture, forestry and fishing (excluding mining) adds approximately $7.85 billion to the annual gross domestic product (GDP) of New Zealand and is a significant contributor to the export industry.

The opportunities are there for businesses with the dedication, energy and passion – combined with a dose of good seasonal luck – to take advantage of New Zealand’s reputation for providing sustainable and high-quality produce.

Nevertheless, the industry faces challenges in geography, staff retention and fragmentation. We spoke to Ian Proudfoot, Head of Agribusiness for KPMG New Zealandfor his views on what it is that makes Agribusiness great.

Q: The agribusiness sector represents a significant component of NZ’s GDP. How important is a flourishing agri sector for New Zealand?

A: “The Primary Sector accounts for around 70% of New Zealand’s traded exports and is central to much of the economic activity of the country, hence the fact that the current drought is receiving so much media attention, as a drop in production levels has a material impact on the country’s economy and our ability to pay for the lifestyles that we aspire to.

The challenge we face as a small, trading nation a long way from our key markets is how we maximise the value of the primary sector for its participants and for NZ Inc. There has been much talk about collaboration in recent years but it is now time for action so that our primary sector captures the huge opportunities available to it to supply high added value, safe, sustainable and reliable proteins, fibres and wood products. If we can capture these opportunities the outlook for New Zealand as a food basket to the world’s premium consumers is very positive and it will secure our ability to pay for the schools, hospital beds and roads the population expects as a developed country and create jobs that will keep the best New Zealanders driving the prosperity of our country.”

Q: The KPMG Agribusiness Agenda interviews a wide selection of industry leaders, and while agribusiness is a very diverse sector, are there any common traits, that you have observed in successful industry participants?

A: “We are very lucky to be able to talk to many of the industry leaders in preparing the KPMG Agribusiness Agenda publications and I believe the trait that most have in common is a passion to create the maximum value from New Zealand’s Primary sector assets and an ability to articulate the stories that underlie the products they are producing and exporting to the world. The industry is realising the need to shift from supply led, product push models to consumer led, market driven models and the successful leaders are able to explain the importance of this shift to their stakeholders well in advance of the financial benefits being realized.

The nature of the industry also means that a successful leader has to astutely interpret signals and respond to them in a politically savvy manner and have a strong ability to connect with their suppliers or shareholders in a practical, direct manner (farmers tend to call a spade a spade and expect their leaders to do the same!)”

Q: Attracting talent has been challenging for the industry, but what makes it an attractive industry to work in? (In other words, what are the compelling reasons why people should consider it as a career?)

A: “Agriculture in New Zealand provides ambitious people with the opportunity to have a career on the edge of global innovation in the primary sector and to really make a difference to their country. If you want a marketing career – New Zealand’s primary sector delivers the opportunities to market some of the finest products grown anywhere in the world to some of the most sophisticated consumers globally. If you want a career in science – New Zealand has been seen as a leader in many areas of pasture and genetic development for decades and we are now taking a strong lead in innovating to reduce agricultural emissions and developing functional food solutions. If you want a career in business management – agriculture provides a huge variety options from some of New Zealand’s largest and most complex corporates through to the ability to own and manage your own multimillion dollar business at farm level.

While the Primary Sector offers a huge variety of career options to school leavers and graduates, it has struggled to attract its fair share of talent because it has not spent much time explaining the opportunities available – the whole sector has a role to play in changing the perceptions of the industry and this must start from early in a child’s school career.”

KPMG Agribusiness is a leading advisory firm to rural New Zealand. They provide audit, tax and advisory services to many of New Zealand’s leading agricultural based businesses, which gives them a unique insight into the challenges that our clients are facing on a day to day basis. Read more about KPMG Agribusiness.

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