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Science key to unlocking primary sector potential

Science key to unlocking potential of primary sector

11 June, 2008

Speaking today at the 40th National Agricultural Fieldays at Mystery Creek, AgResearch Chief Executive Dr Andrew West said that scientific research was essential to the future of all New Zealanders.

“Global demand for high quality food and other primary sector products has never been greater. This presents an unparalleled opportunity for New Zealand, already a recognised leader in the production of safe, top quality primary produce,” he said.

Historically, New Zealand’s agricultural sector has outperformed its competitors and overcome the challenges represented by trade tariffs and distance from markets around the world.

“Science and technology produced here in New Zealand has helped create a set of genuinely world-class food industries that are the backbone of our economy. Phrases like “food is still or food remains important are misleading. They imply an element of surprise. The fact is, our food exports and those of agri-technologies are growing in importance, not declining, and the NZ-China Free Trade Agreement will accelerate this trend.

“It is therefore appropriate that the theme of the 40th National Fieldays be the “Science of Farming”. AgResearch has a long association with the National Fieldays and is proud to be the Premier Feature sponsor for 2008.”

Dr West said that while the global demand for high quality pastorally derived food was truly great, our food industries also faced significant challenges.

“In the longer term we cannot compete on being the cheapest because we are now competing with developing countries with lower land, labour and production costs, and with New Zealand production technologies courtesy of New Zealanders.

“New Zealand can’t feed the world. With our current product mix perhaps we can feed 30 million people, not the 6.3 billion that inhabit this planet. New Zealand’s rising cost of production and the fact that we operate sophisticated food industries implies one thing – we need to be in high value add and high value capture. We must not just create more value, but then give too much of it away to some firm overseas: we also need to return a bigger share of that value back to New Zealand. To achieve the twin challenges of value add and value capture we need many things and two of the most important are science and technology.

“The Government’s new Fast Forward Fund is all about transforming New Zealand’s food industries firmly into this space. It represents a fantastic opportunity to be genuinely transformational.

“AgResearch’s Premier Sponsor stand in the main pavilion features the future of food. Discerning consumers around the world are prepared to pay a premium for authenticated, safe, low-environmental footprint, nutritious, pleasurable food. Our stand features two aspects of these demands; caring for the environment and caring for the consumer.

“We examine the challenges of farming within environmental constraints and how the food that we produce from that farming can ensure we lead healthier lives,” said Dr West.


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