Meat & Livestock News

Optimism in the Rural Sector Despite Challenges: A Look Ahead to 2024

Hens in factory, Chicken in cages

As 2023 draws to a close, many in the rural sector are eagerly anticipating the end of a challenging year marked by extreme weather events, fluctuating commodity prices, and rising inflation. The added burden of ongoing regulatory demands has made it a particularly tough year for those whose livelihoods depend on the land.

The recently released Global Animal Protein Outlook report by Rabobank offers a tempered view of the year ahead. The annual report, a staple in the industry, predicts a slowdown in the growth of animal production worldwide in 2024, after four years of expansion. This forecast suggests that producers and processors will need to adapt to maintain success.

Specifically, the report indicates that New Zealand’s livestock industries will continue to face pressure, particularly from environmental factors, with no significant growth in production expected. Beef production is likely to decrease slightly due to herd reductions, while sheepmeat production and export lamb volumes may increase. However, lamb prices will depend on Australia’s export volumes and demand from China.

Despite the cautious outlook presented in the Rabobank report, there are signs of potential positive developments. Another report anticipates a resurgence in China’s demand for imported high-value, high-nutrition protein products. This could be a boon for New Zealand farmers.

Throughout 2023, Farmers Weekly has highlighted numerous positive initiatives within the sector, reflecting resilience and capacity for innovation among New Zealand farmers. The change of government following the October election has also injected a sense of optimism into the rural community. 

The National Party has committed to addressing the regulatory challenges that have weighed heavily on farmers in recent years. Before Christmas, the coalition government is expected to announce the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management.

In 2024, the government plans to reverse, replace, or review 12 policies affecting the primary sector, including methane targets. The establishment of a Regional Infrastructure Fund, with $1.2 billion in capital funding, indicates a willingness to invest in rural areas. Additionally, the controversial ‘ute tax’ is set to be abolished, a move likely to be welcomed by many in the sector.

The new government, with a strong rural presence and nine cabinet ministers overseeing primary sector affairs, promises to ensure that rural voices are heard in Parliament.

While the government may not have solutions to all the sector’s challenges, its fresh approach and focus on environmental targets could provide farmers with renewed vigour as they prepare for the new year.

In summary, while challenges persist, there are reasons for cautious optimism in New Zealand’s rural sector as it looks ahead to 2024. The combination of potential market opportunities, government policy shifts, and ongoing innovation within the sector offers a glimmer of hope for better times ahead.