The town of Gore is at the centre of a rural based economy situated in the South of the South Island, where conditions for growing cereals and grass are perfect.

With fertile land, consistent rainfall and cooler weather, crops remain immune to pests and diseases more common in warmer areas of New Zealand. This where many Scots settled, evidenced by many small Presbyterian churches, built by those brave souls, with headstones telling part of the story of their epic journey in the 1890s from Scotland.

It is little wonder, then, this is where nearly all NZ oats are grown then milled in nearby Dunedin. The logo is even a bagpiper in a kilt.

I had the great pleasure to be a guest speaker at the recent field day there, where we saw about 40 new breeding lines on a farm just north of Gore. The plant breeder, Adrian Russell, showed us these new lines alongside the most popular variety he has bred called L5 – Southern Gold. He also included a variety called Canyon that is very popular in Fife for Quaker Oats, Cupar.

A recent fall of very heavy rain saw every plot of Canyon go flat as it is has weak straw. No New Zealander would ever be daft enough to grow such a variety. Yet, in the UK, the cereals committee of AHDB still rate Canyon as stiff strawed (someone within AHDB has totally lost the plot!)

The Foundation of Arable Research (FAR) helped organise the field day and provided a most interesting presentation on why glyphosate is, in effect, banned for use pre-harvest to speed up crop ripening. We learnt that even one litre per ha of glyphosate (sometimes known as Roundup) puts the harvested oats way over the minimum residue level of 0.1 mg/kg.

What I am picking up all over NZ, from cattle to oats, is that standards for food safety must be the highest in the world, as NZ exports 95% of farm production. Some countries refuse to import NZ beef if at any time the animal was treated with an antibiotic and for arable men, the fear is that under the current system, it may lead to glyphosate being present in food or drink.

Some countries refuse to import oat products if there is even the slightest trace of glyphosate. Some Asian counties have zero tolerance for glyphosate in food and this is an important market for NZ.

The final speaker was Chris Willkie, from Otis Oat Milk. Made in NZ from NZ-grown oats and guaranteed 100% glyphosate-free, these are first milled in Dunedin by Harroways who will only buy from this harvest onwards, glyphosate-free oats.

The growers I met feel that with their grain dryers and Macdon headers on the combines, they will be all right. The oat miller is paying £225 per tonne ex farm for harvest 2020 (NZ$450).

In the UK, oat milk – as in NZ – is proving a very popular alternative to soya, almond or coconut milk, especially at coffee outlets.

So, in my opinion, there must be huge opportunities for Scottish farmers to grow oats for an oat milk made in Scotland from Scottish oats. Watch this space!