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Jim Sutton Speech To Fruit And Vegetable Function

Speech Notes

6pm, 19 February 2002

Horticulture Industry function, Wellington

Martin Clements, Brian Gargulio, Ladies and Gentlemen: We are very good at knocking ourselves when we do badly - just ask the All Blacks or the Black Caps - but we’re not so good at celebrating our successes.

Tonight, we are here to celebrate success.

Horticultural exports from New Zealand have surpassed $2 billion a year for the first time. Our fruit and vegetables, out there winning markets in the world, and being recognised as the good quality produce they are.

That is well worth celebrating.

I’ll leave the details to Martin and Brian, but all sectors in the horticultural industry have something to be proud of tonight.

It’s not that long ago that horticulture and agriculture were seen by some as “old economy” sectors, “sunset industries” heading into decline. Quite the opposite, in fact, from the truth.

Horticultural exports are rising, not only in absolute terms, but they have increased substantially as a percentage of our total merchandise exports as well. In 1975, horticultural exports made up 2 per cent of exports; in 1985, they were 4.4 per cent; in 1995, 7 per cent, and last year 6.1 per cent.

And you don’t get figures like that by just sitting round as “an industry in decline”.

Tuesday last week, the Prime Minister outlined the Innovation Strategy in her speech to the throne, and a suite of documents set out the framework the Government is working from.

That framework documents a broad consensus that has emerged over the past two years as to what needs to be done to develop New Zealand’s innovative potential.

To do that, the Government is committing to implementing policies with more emphasis on: - Enhancing our innovation framework; - Developing our skills and talents; - Increasing our global connectedness; and - Focusing interventions in those areas which can have maximum impact.

The Government has chosen to target its innovation initiatives initially in biotechnology, ICT and the creative industries. These are all areas which, if they attain their growth potential, can have a significant influence on the broad scope of the New Zealand economy.

Biotechnology could have huge benefits for agriculture and horticulture ¡K sectors which we are world leaders in and in which we wish to maintain our leading edge.

ICT is another “horizontal” sector we would like to become a world leader in. Similarly, it is an enabling technology capable of adding significant value to many of our industries.

Finally, the creative industries are those which give expression to ourselves as we are and as we would like to be. There are not just painting, potting, and film making. They are about style, flair, and design, and they foster skills and reputation that can help market all our other goods and services.

Obviously, these three sectors are not the only sectors we want to see innovation and growth in. For our country, and our economy, to achieve the way we want it to, innovation must happen across the board.

Horticulture can stand as an example to the rest of the country. Your sector has achieved the success we are celebrating tonight through innovation.

The gold kiwifruit, the Braeburn, Royal Gala, and Pacific series of apples, and many other cultivars¡K these did not happen by accident. They happened because you worked actively to improve your crops, you invested in research and development, and you were swift to adopt the results of that research and development investment.

Ladies and Gentlemen: over the past 20 years, the horticultural export industry has grown from about $200 million to $2 billion. That’s a ten-fold increase.

This makes your industry one of the fastest growing export industries in our country, and one that has sustained its growth over a long period of time, and done so in the fact of international competitition.

In doing so, you have displayed a belief in your own abilities and have invested strongly in research and development. You’ve then adopted the results of that investment, bringing innovation to your industry.

I congratulate you on that and on your achievement of $2 billion in exports. I look forward to celebrating your future successes as we work in partnership to make New Zealand an innovative nation.

Well done.

Office of Hon Jim Sutton

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