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Jim Sutton Speech To Horticulture Industry

Jim Sutton Speech To Horticulture Industry

Jim Sutton Speech Notes
14 October 2003

Horticultural Industry function, Wellington

Ladies and Gentlemen: welcome here to Parliament for this horticulture industry function. I am delighted to be here tonight to participate with you in the launching of two new initiatives.

Horticulture - the production of fruit and vegetables, and their processing - is a significant industry for New Zealand: worth more than $2 billion a year in export earnings, about $4 billion a year when domestic sales are included.

I think it is particularly timely that the New Zealand Fruitgrowers Federation, New Zealand Vegetable and Potato Growers Federation and the New Zealand Horticulture Export Authority are jointly launching two major initiatives:
· a horticulture careers promotional package; and
· a comprehensive report focusing attention on trade barriers faced by New Zealand's horticultural exports.

Some parts of the horticulture industry are adept at promoting themselves and their products; others are less so.

At the risk of preaching to the converted, horticulture is a vital part of the New Zealand economy.

It provides satisfying, fulfilling, and profitable careers for many New Zealanders.

Despite many tariff and non-tariff barriers in overseas markets, export opportunities for New Zealand's horticultural products are expanding. We have a reputation for high quality safe food, attractive to consumers, and that is something the Government is working with industry to make sure we maintain.

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Recently, the Government published a report: a report prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry for the Growth and Innovation Advisory Board, Contribution of the Land-based Primary Industries to New Zealand's Economic Growth.

The report assesses the importance of primary industries to New Zealand's economic wellbeing and proposes areas of potential improvement.

It found that primary production makes an enormous contribution to our economy, and that there was still plenty of potential for productivity improvement in the primary production sector.

It says that New Zealand needs to drive off its existing agribusiness and forestry sectors, including the wider cluster businesses around them. The scale of the agribusiness and forestry sectors provide much of the platform and the critical mass of competencies for New Zealand's future economic growth, for the seeding and spinning off of new entrepreneurial ventures, and for the exploitation of new biotechnology opportunities.

The report had particular things to say about the horticulture industry.

It highlighted innovation within the industry, and its willingness to adopt new production and processing techniques.

The New Zealand horticultural industry has always been renowned for its plant breeding innovation, with notable examples including the Hayward and Gold kiwifruit varieties and apple varieties such as Royal Gala and Braeburn. The report says there is a great deal of experimentation and development is underway with new fruit, nut, Asian vegetable and herb, essential oil and other crops, as well as on-orchard innovation such as in new growing techniques. This, I believe, bodes well for the future of horticulture? innovation can help us maintain our place on the world's table.

MAF's report says fruit and vegetable growers and exporters are quick to take advantage of market opportunities. Examples include the emergence of the export capsicum and carrot sectors over the past ten years. Carrot exports have increased from 1500 tonnes in the year ending March 1993 to 20,000 tonnes in the year ending March 2003, and are now worth $14 million. Capsicum exports have increased from 90 tonnes to 4,100 tonnes over the same period, and are worth $24 million.

The report goes on to say that most horticultural products have not had producer boards, and this has resulted in a very entrepreneurial and independent culture in the industry. This has both benefits and costs - fragmented marketing efforts and undercutting on export markets are among the downsides. The Horticultural Export Authority is one avenue open to sectors to provide co-ordination and discipline to export marketing without quenching the entrepreneurial spirit.

The horticultural industry has demonstrated substantial increases in production volumes and in productivity gains over the past ten years. The concept of integrated pest management to reduce chemical use has really taken off. The ability to measure fruit characteristics before harvest, to optimise quality, enhanced grading technology, and improved systems for inventory management, bar coding and product tracking have also featured. Cool chain and post harvest management has been enhanced to ensure better quality of product and service to the market.

Total horticultural export values are projected to reach $2.43 billion in 2006, a 16 percent rise on the 2002 level of $2.1 billion.

Over and above this, the report says the horticultural industry has considerable growth potential through new niche crop development and through new production management techniques for existing crops. Organic horticultural production also has growth potential.

The Growth and Innnovation Advisory Board had taken MAF's report on board and has been doing further work in the area. I am sure representatives of this industry will be actively involved.

Ladies and Gentlemen: your industry is demonstrating leadership in preparing and publishing these initiatives. The Government will be doing its part in partnership with industry. Together, we can be a potent team.

Thank you for your attendance today, and I invite Bruce Koller and Martin Clements to tell us more about these initiatives.


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