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Launch of new mushroom venture

Hon Jim Anderton

Minister of Agriculture, Minister for Biosecurity
Minister of Fisheries, Minister of Forestry
Associate Minister of Health
Associate Minister for Tertiary Education

Progressive Leader

23 May 2008 Speech

Launch of new mushroom venture
Gisborne

Back in Wellington when my staff told me I had been invited up here to talk about mushrooms, I asked them what the event was all about.

They said they had personally asked for you, Jim. They said they want to get the mushrooms growing faster right from the beginning. You know what you need to get mushrooms growing faster? Lots of fertiliser. So they said “your speech will do the trick nicely…”

Can I start out by acknowledging Sheldon Drummond.

I first met Sheldon about eight years ago when I was minister of economic development and I came up here to look at what we needed to do to increase the economic value we get from our timber.

Sheldon was working for Juken Nissho at the time - and he was very persuasive and energetic in his commitment to generating higher value from the unique strengths of our primary industries, particularly forestry.

So it is no surprise he is here in another role, once again with the Nakamoto family. I would like to mention my sadness at the passing of Mr Nakamoto senior. He was a great friend of New Zealand and richly deserved the award as a member of the New Zealand order of merit.

Once again, Sheldon and Juken Nissho are involved in a partnership unleashing value and creating jobs from an exciting and unique New Zealand product.

Some people might look at a pine forest and think the potential there is only for cutting down trees and turning them into logs for export.

Sheldon and the Nakamoto family looked at pine forests and thought there was more potential to process those logs so that we retain the value of processing here on our own shores.
And now they’re looking at those same forests and seeing that we can grow another high value product on the forest floor.

The development of the Saffron mushroom as a commercial crop is potentially highly lucrative for New Zealand.

Forest-grown mushrooms are highly-prized internationally as a gourmet crop. Saffron milk caps are mainly gathered from the wild in Europe and Australia, so being able to cultivate them under pine forest is a huge international breakthrough.

This breakthrough is what primary sector innovation looks like in practice. New varieties, and fresh discoveries about how we can grow products here in New Zealand are every bit as important as the development of a new model of cellphone or motor car. There is just as much science and technology in our mushrooms or our lamb chops or our processed wood as there is in those electronic products.

It’s not surprising this breakthrough has come in our horticultural sector. The horticulture industry has a history of innovation in developing new species and varieties of fruit, vegetables, and fungi and finding new ways to market previously exotic species and varieties.

This is just another demonstration of that.

So I would like to commend Crop and Food and First Light Mushrooms for investing in the potential of the new and for their determination and innovation.

I’m told that about $10 million has been invested over the past six years to achieve this breakthrough. I’m confident that investment will be repaid many times over.

I think this project is an inspiration to others. This is a pivotal time for research and innovation in our primary industries.

A few weeks ago the prime minister and I announced New Zealand Fast Forward. It is a fund to invest in research and technological development in our primary industries.

The model for the fund is exactly this kind of successful project - the government is putting $700 million into the fund, so that industry can work with CRIs such as Crop and Food, and with other researchers to achieve breakthroughs in our knowledge.

That fund will be invested so that over ten or fifteen years the fund will be worth around a billion dollars. And it will be matched by private sector investment, so that in total it will commit as much as two billion dollars to research and development and to innovation in our primary and food industries.
It is the largest single injection into innovation in our country’s history. We’ve never done anything like it before. And it is our best shot at achieving a step change in New Zealand’s economic performance. It is our best shot at stepping up to a high-value, high technology, higher returns pathway.

I believe that transforming our economy will not come through a single silver bullet. It will come through a series of innovations and breakthroughs that start out modestly and grow to world leadership through our own technology, creativity and innovation.

This project is a model. It is another example from our primary sector of how we can be successful with New Zealand knowledge and innovation. It is another example from our primary sector of what we can achieve through partnership between the government and the private sector. It shows what we can achieve if we don’t stand on the sidelines and wish you luck (like we used to do in the 80s and 90s) - but, instead, we get alongside and pitch in together.

I’m optimistic that in the future, we will see more of these types of developments when the New Zealand Fast Forward fund is operational.
These are good days for our horticulture industry.

I know that times are not as easy as they have ever been over the past eight years. The dollar is high, overseas markets are weakening, fuel prices are tough. There is not much New Zealand can do about any of those conditions, except adapt to them.

And our horticulure has.

Last year New Zealand’s horticulture industry recorded its highest-ever annual returns. The sector has increased its overall returns every year since 1980.
Fruit, vegetables, wine and flowers earned a combined $5.2 billion last year. That was up from $4.8 billion the year before.

Over half of those earnings last year - nearly $2.7 billion - were from export returns. That was up $300 million (or over twelve percent) from the year before.

Horticulture works hard to produce high-quality, high-value food, and to be innovative with new products.

A few weeks ago I went to a debate in Dunedin put on by the students down there about drugs and alcohol.

And whenever you do these things, you get someone asking about ‘magic mushrooms’.

I’ll tell you what’s magic: Magic is developing a new crop that takes advantage of our unique conditions and talents and sending it overseas to increase our exports.
Magic is getting our research institutions working with industry in constructive partnerships.

Magic is the business skill and entrepreneurship that invests in these projects and makes them work.

That is my idea of truly magic mushrooms.

I’m looking forward to trying these products.

One of the little known perks of being the minister with responsibility for our primary industries is that I get to try all sorts of new food products - as well as a few of our finest.

Not long ago, I went to the launch of a new aquaculture research centre where they are developing smoked eel. Earlier this year I went to the launch of a new joint marketing campaign for our Marlborough wine and greenshell mussells. And a couple of weeks ago I was in the deep south for a promotion of our finest lamb. (I tell you, it’s a tough job… but someone has to do it!)

What you realise from these sorts of events is how exciting our cuisine is becoming. We are producing world class, excellent foods that are outstanding and sought after on the world’s dinner plates.

In the long run, higher incomes and a higher standard of living for New Zealanders will only come from innovation and leadership like this.

Yesterday, the government produced a budget that I’m proud of, and that I think will help New Zealanders considerably with the pressures of current living costs.

But for all that, true long term innovation and success doesn’t come from budgets. It comes from a series of compelling advances such as we are celebrating today. So to everyone involved, congratulations and I wish you all the best for the future of this product.


ENDS

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