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Industry depends on more investment in R&D

4 August 2006

Success of horticulture industry depends on more investment in R&D

New Zealand’s lack of investment on research and development threatens the future of the horticulture industry said Andrew Fenton, President of Horticulture New Zealand, today.

The lack of investment in this area, and its importance to the industry, was the main issue discussed by fruit and vegetable growers at Horticulture New Zealand’s inaugural conference in Auckland this week.

Keynote speaker John Palmer, Chairman of Air New Zealand and former horticulturist, said the average gross expenditure on research and development as a proportion of GDP in New Zealand in 2004 across all industries was 1.16 percent, compared to the OECD average of 2.25%. Australia invests 1.62%.

Mr Fenton said “We have a great track record of utilising science to benefit the industry but the industry and government need to invest more in R&D for horticulture to remain globally competitive.

“The global market for fruit and vegetables will only become more competitive as countries such as China increase production. The only way New Zealand can insulate itself is to produce niche, high quality products – and this requires a significant investment in R&D.”

Mr Fenton said the added challenge was that it was expensive to protect good ideas.

“Better industry collaboration and more government-industry partnerships are required,” he said.

The conference also discussed whether biofuel was a realistic alternative to petrochemicals to reduce the impact of rising fuel costs on New Zealand’s 7000 fruit and vegetable growers.

Fuel prices have increased substantially over the last 12 months, adding significant costs to growers who require fuel for their tractors and harvesting machinery.

Other issues discussed at the conference included the importance of continued access to water, and biosecurity.

On Wednesday Horticulture New Zealand announced it would be consulting with growers over the next two months to establish its own commodity levy, with a referendum to be held in November 2006.

On Wednesday evening the Minister for Agriculture, the Right Honourable Jim Anderton awarded the Bledisloe Cup to Martin Clements from Canterbury, for his outstanding contribution to horticulture.

The Horticulture New Zealand conference, sponsored by Rabobank, is the largest event on the industry’s calendar, and this year more than 700 people attended, including 450 growers.

The conference was the organisation’s first official event since it launched five months ago, and Mr Fenton said support from growers had been very strong.

ENDS

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