There are countless opportunities for Maori businesses, Trusts and Incorporations with food producing assets like land, cropping, agriculture, horticulture, viticulture, fishing and other marine interests to add value to these assets through direct accessing of leading European technologies and capabilities and applying these here at home.
It is clear from visiting the leading Food Technology Institutes across Europe that post-war, many of these economies not surprisingly have sophisticated industrial technologies that pervade and enable much of their economic development today.
The Institutes we visited are engaged by the largest food companies of the world (i.e. Nestle, Unilever, Bayer and others) to undertake much of their new product development across all food categories. It is clear that what is happening in the laboratories of these Institutes will shape world consumer demand in the food sector out into the future.
Europe has to be an important source of new technologies to enable Maori busineses to succeed on the world stage. But, it is likely that the major markets for products from our businesses enabled by european technologies will be in the emerging markets of China, India and South America. Traditional markets like the UK, Europe, US and Australia will likely start to feature less in time.
The strategy for Maori food business therefore must be to seek and exploit the best food technologies of the world (and definitely from Europe) and transfer these technologies directly across our businesses and particularly across the estimated 1.2 million hectares of underperforming Maori lands. This is a relatively low risk but high return strategy and can happen quickly compared to the much more risky, time consuming and very expensive strategy of doing new research and science from scratch.
Changes being made by government in terms of some of their reforms may enable Maori business to make this step but, it is unlikely that these changes will bear any real fruit for 3 to 5 years (or more) for Maori business. We shouldn’t wait for government (or any one else) to take this leadership role. The leadership must come from Maori directly, with Government, researchers and others playing a more supporting and enabling role.
An overarching strategy will be in time to move away from passive leasing out of strategic assets like land, fish quota et al towards creating new and wholly Maori owned value chains from raw materials through to end consumer. An important feature of these new value chains will be to bring together multiple Maori businesses (separate Trusts) enabled by the worlds best technology and innovations.
Finally, we can not afford to sit around and do nothing! The opportunity cost (of doing nothing) will be hundreds of millions of dollars to our collective whanau, hapu and Iwi. However, the inverse of this if done well is, the Maori economy could grow to equal the size of the non-Maori economy in as little as10 years.