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Adding value to agriculture

3 April 2008 Media Statement

Adding value to agriculture

Milk is an amazing product and scientists are just scraping the surface of its potential, Agriculture Minister Jim Anderton said today.

Jim Anderton told the Large Herds Association conference in New Plymouth that a little over 100 years ago some very smart scientists worked out that oil was merely a bundle of hydrocarbons that could be 'cracked' in a myriad of ways.

"Their discoveries laid the foundations of the petrochemical industry.

"I have no doubt that some very smart scientists will also find ways to crack milk into a myriad of elements and lay the foundations for entirely new biotech industries."

He said there were already exciting business opportunities in fields that use milk as an ingredient, able to be sold for as much as US$4000 a tonne.

"Nutriceuticals can sell for even more.

"The challenge for our industry will be to harness these opportunities, instead of just supplying the raw ingredient, while someone else takes off with the intellectual property and all the associated returns from new products."

Jim Anderton said that to remain competitive and sustainable - and to better align the food and pastoral sectors with trends and opportunities in global markets - New Zealand need to invest substantially more in innovation.

"I am excited about our momentum on this front.

"Last month the Government announced New Zealand Fast Forward.
It is the largest ever investment in science and innovation.

"This is genuinely a partnership between the government and the private sector. The government is putting in $700 million, which over the life of the fund could grow to be as much as a billion. With matching industry contributions, that amounts to two billion dollars over ten to 15 years."

The aim of this fund is to achieve a step change in the performance of our primary industries, he said.

"It's an opportunity, the likes of which don't come along very often, to change the economic destiny of New Zealand.

"I therefore have high hopes for the future of science related to the industry.

"Innovation in our pastoral industries offers the single greatest chance to achieve a breakthrough that can restore the place we lost in the seventies, eighties and nineties at the table of the world's winning economies."


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