Agriculture still a winner for economic growth


Ballance Chief Executive Larry Bilodeau has questioned calls for New Zealand's economy to be less reliant on agriculture

September 12, 2014

Agriculture still a winner for economic growth

Outgoing Ballance Chief Executive Larry Bilodeau has questioned calls for New Zealand’s economy to be less reliant on agriculture.

“Those who say we should minimise our reliance on agriculture don’t realise there is no viable alternative. We should certainly be diversifying our economy, especially in innovative areas like technology, but growth does not have to be an either/or question.

“We should be focused on good growth in agricultural exports and, at the same time, performance from other more diverse sectors,” he told the co-operative’s annual meeting of shareholders in Queenstown yesterday.

Mr Bilodeau said the food and forestry sectors generated 70 percent of New Zealand's merchandise export earnings and around 12 percent of Gross Domestic Product. The Ministry for Primary Industries’ latest estimates were that export values from agriculture, fisheries and forestry will reach $40.7 billion by June 2018 – a rise of more than eight percent since June of this year.

“It seems to me food is still a good sector to rely on for future economic growth.”

Mr Bilodeau said it was obvious that major opportunities existed for agricultural products as demand grew in markets around the world.

“Our challenge is to meet that demand with more high quality safe food produced sustainably. Ballance will always be part of that effort. We are working hard for our farmers to stay one step ahead of the evolving needs of agriculture.”

Mr Bilodeau celebrated his final year with the co-operative with a record $93.5 million result and a record rebate distribution to shareholders of $78.9 million, based on a rebate of $60.83 per tonne and a dividend of 10 cents per share.

Ballance Chairman, David Peacocke acknowledged Mr Bilodeau’s “exceptional leadership” in driving the co-operative evolution from a fertiliser company to one focused on the full range of farm nutrients. He said the co-operative had entered the new financial year in excellent shape and was in a strong position for growth.

At the annual meeting Genesis Energy Chief Executive, Albert Brantley, was introduced as an independent director, replacing David Pilkington who retired.

The resignation of Dean Nikora as an elected director was also announced at the meeting.  Mr Nikora is retiring part way through his term to take up an overseas appointment as Group Director Food Safety Advisory for AsureQuality.  The co-operative will hold a special election to fill the vacancy he leaves in Ward B which he has served since 2004.

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