Free trade…..where our food comes from now!

Free trade is supposed to stimulate economic growth – there’s alot right with that and alot wrong, especially when it comes to our food. Shouldn’t a country, any country be producing, as far as is possible, food to be feeding it’s own people? NZ is a large food growing country, our agriculture makes up our major exports. So it would’ve been a surprise to some (including me to a point) when one of our current affairs programs aired this last week….Where is Our Food Really Coming From?

One young mum was asked to go and buy a weekly shop minus meat, dairy, fruit and vegetables. Her total came to over $200 which is scary enough but what was worse was, out of 54 items only 7 were made in NZ, a few more packaged in NZ from imported products, the rest were imported  – all the old “Kiwi” (NZ) iconic brands are now made in China, Taiwan, or Australia. A couple of these I still bought till recently assuming they were still made in NZ.

Many other countries would be the same nowadays I expect, but there’s alot wrong with this! What has pushed NZ manufacturers producing overseas is the high cost of production here, paying the wages (when Asia does it cheaper) and the high standards required by governing departments ….all the red tape, health & safety requirements etc. So, despite OUR very stringent laws, we can import from countries with lesser standards no worries.

There was also this about the pork industry, our courts have approved importing pork products….from countries who don’t have the stringent laws the government has imposed on pig farmers here AND who are known to have pig diseases we do not have here.

Like most other Western/European nations we are financially tight, there is alot of unemployment. We are capable of growing and producing our own food to a very high extent and standard. We could be employing alot more people doing so, and a hell of alot more money would be kept in NZ, buying NZ made. Not hard, people have been talking about buying locally produced food for years, but it’s the minority who care and certainly not our governments. How can any of this be economic growth?! The only people making money are the wealthy who own the food companies, full stop.

NZ exports alot of lamb, dairy and fish. Many can’t afford to buy it here because the prices are so high, we can’t compete with the export market and the supermarkets (and all the middle men) add so much to the cost. The farmers don’t get alot for it… those prices overseas pay for the cost of processing and transporting it!

And what if there was a world war tomorrow or any other global disaster (god forbid) and shipping food all around the world became impossible, or borders closed – could each country sustain itself food wise long term?

Our governments talk about economic growth and sustainability – it seems to be the priority nowadays…. that doesn’t appear to be working very well now when we look at the financial mess the world is in. What is economic growth when so much of our populations are experiencing hardship or poverty? We, the you’s and I’s believe we can’t make a difference here but so much is consumer driven. We can do for ourselves or we can do for our community by growing our own, making our own or buying locally made.  I for one can see no logic in buying Californian oranges or grapes when we grow very nice ones here but export them or worse still can find no local market anymore – imports and exports which are sprayed to prevent contamination to local agriculture or kill foreign creepy crawlies.

It all just seems such a crazy merry-go-round.