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Scale matters in exporting according to the World Bank… here’s a way to get virtual scale for our biggest industry.

The World Bank’s recent report ‘Export Superstars’, shows that company size matters when it comes to countries’ exporting. Little SME’s don’t cut much mustard.

Business NZ chief executive Phil O’Reilly , in commenting on Rob O’Neil’s Stuff story that the World Bank wants us to think big, says

“New Zealand has some unique challenges to overcome in its incredibly small scale and being the most isolated developed economy in the world.”

O’Reilly goes onto say:

“one effective model is the aggregation of small businesses into groups allowing them to in some ways act like and gain the advantages of large businesses.”

Given that NZ Inc’s biggest business is the conversion of solar-derived pastures into various proteins and fats, through thousands of small on and off farm businesses (and even the large ones are mere tiddlers in the world scene), wouldn’t it make sense to aggregate if we could?

Given the fierce independence mindset of our agricultural (and other) businesses, the best way for us to do this I argue is around the shared story of our pastoral method?

After all, in an affluent consumer’s mind, the story of a product is a large reason why they do, or don’t, buy it.

No one has claimed the ‘global mind’ (nor branded it) for responsible pastoralism. By and large (with some exceptions), how we produce our protein is a pretty sophisticated use of sunshine, soil and fresh air.

Now, no one New Zealand company can claim the NZ Inc mandate.

But collectively we can.

Collectively, owning and telling our story through individuals, we can grunt up, obtain the virtual scale that the World Bank suggests is vital, aggregate around a common heritage and obtain some of these advantages of large businesses.

Owning our pastoral story would sit perfectly alongside the Collaboration Programme for Greater Farmer Profitability recently kicked off under the Primary Growth Partnership fund. In fact it would underpin the whole thing, and move us further away from the continual price fighting end of the market.

But perhaps storytelling as a concept is too big an ask for the collective brains and leadership of the agricultural industry. As a nation we’ve always been more comfortable about actually doing things, than talking about what we're good at, what we believe.

So, even though we essentially perfected rotational grazing, the thought that we could or should name it at a global level is just too radical.

However; the opportunity to provide virtual scale for our largest industry is waiting in the wings.

We simply have to think differently about what it is we sell to the world – and that is an ideal, linked to a method.

The moment we stop thinking only production and think ‘picture’ is the moment we’ve adapted to a storytelling world - which in today's digital age is the beginning, middle and end of selling.

Achieving virtual scale for our largest industry

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