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Agriculture v Tourism: No Contest

28 July 2004

Agriculture v Tourism: No Contest

Tourism Minister Mark Burton must be giddy from too many aikido blows if he thinks tourism has overtaken agriculture as New Zealand's biggest export earner, said Tony St. Clair, Chief Executive of Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc).

His comments follow Mr Burton saying today that tourism is New Zealand's biggest export earner -- an inaccuracy fed to him by the Tourism Industry Association.

"The truth is that tourism doesn't come within a bull's roar of agriculture," Mr St. Clair said.

Mr Burton is trained in the martial art of aikido, which is meant to encourage harmony and avoidance of confrontation.

"Farmers want a harmonious relationship with Mr Burton and there is nothing wrong with championing the tourism sector. But Mr Burton's use of selective statistics which compare apples with pears downplays the success of New Zealand farmers who make agriculture the number one export earner," Mr St Clair said.

According to the latest Tourism Satellite Account from Statistics New Zealand, tourism earned $7.4 billion in export receipts in the year ending March 2003. By comparison, agricultural exports (excluding forestry) totalled $16.2 billion in the same period -- more than twice tourism's receipts.

Both industries have similar numbers of workers which suggests agriculturally-based workers are more productive.

"The tourism industry justifies its claims by saying that its export earnings beat dairy export earnings -- which is hardly comparing apples with apples," said Mr St. Clair.

"Dairying is one, albeit large, part of agriculture, in the same way that Asian short-term visitors are one, albeit large, part of inbound tourism.

"Whatever the case for supremacy it is clear that tourism and agriculture are a major part of New Zealand’s economy. New Zealand needs more tourism and agriculture.

"It's a shame that Mr Burton made these statements when Jim Sutton, a more senior minister, is overseas and unable to put the record straight.

"Mr Sutton is in Geneva helping to negotiate better trade access that will increase exports of New Zealand agricultural goods."


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