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.