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Anderton: AgITO young farmers course

3 April 2008 Speech

AgITO young farmers course

Farming, the career you are embarking on, is vitally important to the wellbeing of our country.

I think most New Zealanders struggle to grasp the size and sophistication of our primary sector. They think there can't be much that's scientific about catching a fish or cutting down a tree, or in milking cows or herding sheep or beef cattle!

But in reality, our primary industries are our most science-based, our most research and development-based, and our most innovative industries. There is as much science in landing a fresh gold kiwifruit or lamb chop in a foreign supermarket, as there is in a flat screen television.

And the relationship between agriculture and consumer electronics doesn't end there. As mainly city-folks, we tend to forget that two thirds of the foreign exchange needed to import each new television set, is generated by the primary industries - by your hard work.

We in New Zealand need to renew our commitment to generating that knowledge. And the Government is demonstrating its commitment, through the recent announcement of the New Zealand Fast Forward initiative which will see about $2 billion poured into pastoral and food sector innovation over the next 10 to 15 years or so.

There have been some who have pooh-poohed farming as a career. It's something we're hoping to turn around with the clear sign, through New Zealand Fast Forward, that science, agriculture, horticulture, and food technology are all important, that there are good jobs and committed funding available, in the only sectors New Zealand has that have global reach and scale - our primary industries.

Today we're seeing a demand for skilled people which is being generated by record growth and profitability in a number of sectors. Much of this stems from the dairy sector, but the demand for skilled people is strong across the board - including the arable sector and rural support industries.

The bottom line is we need many, many more people to meet the demand from the primary industries.

For students who work hard and apply themselves, who take up the opportunities to gain skills through organizations such as the AgITO, there are excellent jobs waiting for them.

For those who work hard, there's every chance of arranging a job with an attractive starting salary, plus numerous benefits.

In conclusion, the single biggest issue for the future of the New Zealand economy - and the most urgent one - is how we can lift the value of our production and strengthen our economy. There is no future for us in competing to be the food producer with the lowest prices and costs. That will end up being a race to the bottom. We do not want to compete against countries that rely on exploitation of their people or degradation of their environment. Nor do we want to assume that we will build more wealth so long as the sun keeps shining and we get enough rain to make the grass grow.

New Zealand's primary industries are much more sophisticated than that.

So there is no shortage of direction, or commitment, from Government, or from the industry leadership groups. What we need now are the right people to make their careers in this dynamic and ever-changing sector.

That's where you come in.

I want to congratulate you on your choice of career. And I wish you all the best for the future.


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