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Organic sector to get another funding boost

The Government is to pay for the development of a strategic plan for the organic agriculture sector, Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton said the organic sector had gone through a period of rapid growth in New Zealand.

"In 1991, the output of the New Zealand organics industry was thought to be worth only $1.1 million, a small proportion of which was exported. In 1996, total organic production was $33.5 million, and this year, the total value of organic exports alone was estimated at $70 million."

Mr Sutton said this was about 0.8 per cent of our agricultural and horticultural exports.

He said the area in certified organic production in New Zealand had increased four-fold during the past five years, and now amounted to 46,000 hectares.

"That growth seems likely to continue for a while."

Mr Sutton said Government officials and key organics sector representatives had discussed the sector's needs, and it was decided that a strategic plan was needed urgently.

"Such a plan will have particular focus on the needs for training and development of organic advisors, the understanding of on-farm economics, and a co-ordinated research, science, and technology strategy."

He said $40,000 would be available this financial year and another $40,000 next financial year to ensure the strategic plan was developed.

This is in addition to the $250,000 allocated earlier this year to develop a national minimum standard for organics products by Standards New Zealand and the small-scale organic producers certification sceme.

Mr Sutton said that $45 million a year is allocated to research that contributes to the organics sector through the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.

Of this, about $20 million is for sustainable management research, $22.5 million for integrated pest management, biological controls, and reduced chemical input systems, and another $2.6 million is for organic systems.

"All this research underpins the need for food produced for export from New Zealand to be safe, nutritious, affordable, and to combat the likely increase of food safety issues as non-tariff barrier protectionism by importing nations."

Mr Sutton said the Labour-Alliance Government had given more funding to the organics sector than any other government.

"The Government is supportive of organic agriculture. It adds a diversity to our exports and provides choice for our consumers."

ENDS

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