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Envoys learn of region's expertise

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Northland woolshed and stockyard diplomacy applied at the highest level could help New Zealand trade negotiators swing a better deal for beef and sheep farmers.

About 80 diplomats learned about the high quality meat produced on the region's farms when they visited Douglas and Anne Conn's 1627ha drystock and dairy farm at Tangowahine, about 14km east of Dargaville, last week before going to the Bay of Islands for the commemoration of the 175th anniversary of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Beef + Lamb NZ chairman James Parsons, who farms nearby in the Tangowahine Valley, relished the opportunity to show the envoys the origin of NZ meat and wool products.

He especially wanted to make a favourable impression on European Union representatives among the visitors.

"A core part of what Beef + Lamb does seeks to improve market access for sheep and beef farmers," he told The Land.

"Improving access into the EU would be good, particularly for beef farmers."

There were aspirations for a free trade agreement between New Zealand and the EU, Mr Parsons said, explaining that such a pact could eliminate costly tariffs now applied to Kiwi agricultural products.

The diplomats arrived at the Conn farm in two buses with about 10 Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade staff.

During the visit, which lasted nearly two hours, they assembled in the woolshed and stockyards where Mr Parsons addressed them about national and regional meat and wool production and Mr Conn, 53, introduced them to his family and business.

There are about 1300 bulls, 1400 ewes, 350 lambs, 120 dry dairy cows and 120 heifer calves on the 1220ha dry stock portion of the farm and 450 cows on the 240ha dairy farm.

The property includes about 160ha of bush.

Mr Conn last year received a Silver Fern Farms' excellence award relating to stock processed through the company's Dargaville meat works. They included 170 feeder calves reared on the farm and taken through to slaughter at 20 months averaging 296kg - a good result considering drought setbacks.

After the farm visit, the diplomats looked over eight innovative Northland businesses at a mini-expo at the Whangarei Town Basin Hub.

The companies seen were pet skincare products-maker WashBar, electrical components firm McKay, computerised entertainment systems designer Orange Door Music Video, hangi oven-maker Multi Kai, maker of radiator parts for vintage cars and planes Replicore, home upholstery kit-makers SewEzi, surfboard-maker Surfline and manuka honey exporter Tahi Honey.


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