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Israel’s ambassador to New Zealand Ran Yaakoby and Director of Economy and Trade Lisa Martin have participated in New Zealand AgriFood Week 2021, a week-long event hosted by the Central Economic Development Agency (CEDA), which brought together industry leaders from the agriculture, science, food and technology sectors.

During the week’s events, they were hosted by Mayor of Palmerston North Grant Smith for a fascinating (and tasty) Emerging Proteins Dinner where they heard from the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor Dame Juliet Gerrard on the future of food together with the hosts of the event FoodHQ.

The following day they were hosted by the Mayor of Feilding Helen Worboys for the Meet the Market Luncheon, where they heard from local Feilding farmers’ market producers on their diverse range of high-quality, nutrient-dense and innovative products.

On the sidelines of the event, they visited Fonterra Research and Development Centre, where they met with the Head of FRDC Mark Piper, learning about the ground-breaking innovations being developed by New Zealand’s largest company, as well as The New Zealand Food Safety Science & Research Centre where they were welcomed by Chief Scientist Nigel French and his distinguished team, followed by a meeting with the Management Team for Global Engagement at Massey University.

 

The Feilding Farmers’ Market has attracted international interest and not for the first time. A ‘Eat the market’ event was organised by Feilding & District Promotion to round out the annual New Zealand AgriFood Week on Friday. The event was a chance for both NZ AgriFood Week attendees and everyday locals to sample a selection of local produce.

Israeli ambassador to New Zealand, Ran Yaakoby, travelled from Wellington to attend, saying talking about agrifood was “nothing like trying the product”.

He said he was visiting Manawatū to explore export opportunities, as well as agri-tech and food research partnerships between New Zealand and Israel.

He came to the market because “at the end of it, [agri-tech] is about farmers and the produce”.

Each participant was given a box full of local produce, combined to form six samplings. In the Sheepish Snack, Cartwheel Creamery’s marama camembert from Pohangina Valley met the Baked Dane’s cracker from Levin, and was topped with a pear from Tracey’s pears.

The Saleyard Starter had Palmerston North’s Nadia’s Kitchen falafel, Foxy Bangers from Foxton, microgreens grown by Emoyeni in Tararua, and a heritage potato from Hensons Garden. It gave Yaakoby the idea of a weekly produce box that Manawatū farmers could transport to Wellington. He said if it ever happened, he would be their first customer.

This wasn’t the first time Feilding attracted the attention of international visitors. Speaking to attendees, mayor Helen Worboys said when Prince Charles and Camilla came to New Zealand in 2012, they asked to visit the most authentic farmers market in New Zealand, and Feilding was where they went.

Local Jo Amner said the event reminded her of how proud she was about the local market. “It’s something to brag about. Something to tell your friends to do, to say, ‘hey, come visit Feilding on a Friday, try the market’.” She had gone to farmers’ markets in Melbourne and Sydney, but felt smaller ones were more authentic.

Renee Moyles also thought there was something special about small town markets. “Knowing [produce] was made just down the road adds speciality,” she said.

This year marked 16 years of the Feilding Farmers’ Market.

 

Manawatū’s annual careers expo, Sort It, has returned with a smaller, more tightly focused edition for 2021.

The Central Economic Development Agency held the first sector-specific version of the event, Sort It Careers – Food & Fibre Edition, at the Palmerston North Conference and Function Centre as part of New Zealand AgriFood Week on Thursday.

Agency spokeswoman Sara Towers said while Sort It got large numbers of students and career changes through in previous years, feedback from employers and training providers showed they tended to only get shallow, one-off interactions with them.

“A sector-specific approach allows Sort It Careers to focus on value over volume, with bespoke tailored events.”

Instead of a large and wide-ranging job fair, there were 16 booths for food and fibre-related companies, and the event’s focus was shifted to six featured speakers, who gave in-depth talks on topics from craft beer to environmental sustainability and the experiences and opportunities for Māori and women in the sector.

Towers said this new approach had also opened the door for a higher proportion of local companies, and new food and fibre exhibitors who might have been lost in the crowd in previous years.

Shay Wright spoke on his experiences as a co-founder of Te Whare Hukahuka, which helped set up and grow Māori businesses, and the food and fibre trends creating opportunities for Māori.

Wright said the biggest opportunity for Māori in the sector, was that iwi and Māori land trusts owned a lot of land – much of it was under-used.

“A lot of medium or larger food businesses started as small hobby producers, but a big barrier [for new start-ups] is land which is very expensive and hard to get now.

“So there’s an opportunity for young Māori with an entrepreneurial mindset to work in partnership with their elders for access to iwi land.”

Wright said traditionally the Māori economy was based on traditional farming commodities, although there had been a recent trend towards higher value crops which could be grown on more marginal land.

A good example of that was Ngāti Kahungunu who were using sections of their rohe in Tararua, that were difficult to farm, to grow high-value hemp and Manuka honey crops.

However, because Māori business traditionally focused on production the revenue still often ended at the farm gate.

Wright said by helping Māori entrepreneurs find the land they needed, iwi could create a “vertically integrated” Māori economy – with revenue from each step from production to the consumer going back to supporting their communities.

“Doing that will take [a wide-range of] skills, from science and processing to marketing and new ideas.

“So there are heaps of job opportunities in this space for young Māori, and the opportunities are only going to grow.”

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