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Tough times for biotechnology sector

Global financial crisis means tough times for biotechnology sector

28 October 2008

AgResearch, New Zealand’s principal pastoral food Research Institute, and Australia’s CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) Livestock Industries Division today predicted the global financial crisis could significantly reduce investment in biotechnology and agricultural science.

At the opening day of their joint three day Horizons science conference in Christchurch AgResearch's General Manager of Applied Technologies, Dr Jimmy Suttie, said there's likely to be a low appetite for investment in the biotechnology market from now on.

"The international financial crisis means there is a low appetite for risk and less likelihood of investment in areas such as animal biotechnology. However, this investment is important for New Zealand's future," said Dr Suttie.

"Additionally, if farmers face a downturn it becomes an instant issue for AgResearch. As tougher economic times develop farmers will want increasing real value from what's delivered by the sector levies they pay. AgResearch receives significant funding from sector levies and should this disappear AgResearch would face financial repercussions."

Meanwhile CSIRO Livestock Industries Division Chief Professor Allan Bell said it can't be foreseen just how big an impact the financial crisis will have on national science budgets in Australia and New Zealand.

"The situation is gloomy and all bets regarding the future are off," he said. "Both Australia and New Zealand are affected by export markets and how the international financial crisis affects other national economies. The next couple of years will be pretty tough."

Dr Suttie predicts the biggest single issue facing New Zealand agriculture is changing land use, with dairy farms replacing sheep and beef farms on high quality land

"Dairy and crop farming will predominate with crops being mainly raised to feed diary herds. Sheep will have to move onto poorer quality hill country which will require more fertiliser while the beef industry will have a change in the quality of animals it has for processing.

These issues are part of the focus of the Horizons conference which is: the future of agriculture: value or volume? The conference aims to generate robust debate on the future for trans-Tasman livestock industries, especially in light of increasing global concern about food safety.


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