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Anderton: Innovation critical to pastoral

Hon Jim Anderton

Minister of Agriculture, Minister for Biosecurity
Minister of Fisheries, Minister of Forestry
Associate Minister of Health
Associate Minister for Tertiary Education
28 October 2008 Speech

Horizons in Livestock conference

Good morning. Mayor Bob Parker, Dr Andrew West, Professor Andrew Bell, Bill Falconer, delegates, ladies and gentlemen.

Welcome to the fifth Horizons in Livestock Sciences Conference - the first to be held here in New Zealand.

And an especially warm welcome to our visitors from Australia.

It has been said on this side of the Tasman that the Aussies are our best mates…whether we like them or not.

Today, the pastoral and livestock industries remain the mainstay of the New Zealand economy, and a significant part of the Australian economy.

Last year, pastoral and livestock-based agriculture accounted for 42 cents out of every dollar New Zealand earned overseas.

Let me quickly run through some of the numbers.

New Zealand dairy export values have nearly doubled in the last five years, rising to just over $11 billion.

Meat and wool exports earned more than five billion dollars.

Australia's meat and wool industry earned around nine billion.

These are very important contributors to our respective economies.

Record milk solids payouts have been buoyed by growing international demand.

In response, farmers have transformed small family farms into large industrial-scale farming operations.

Yet both our countries face constraints in our ability to significantly increase the volume of meat and dairy production.

There is a limit to how much land can be brought under pastoral management. There is competition for land use from urban, industrial and environmental uses.

Water availability is a big issue in both Australia and New Zealand.

Both of us endured large scale droughts which significantly reduced production in the 2007/08 season.

Innovation is essential to responding to these challenges and opportunities.

The New Zealand dairy industry is an active participant to a number of initiatives to reduce its environmental impacts on water quality.

One of these initiatives is the Dairying and Clean Streams Accord. It's an agreement between Fonterra, regional councils and government to achieve clean healthy water - streams, rivers, lakes, groundwater, and wetlands.

DairyNZ has also developed a Dairy Industry Strategy for Sustainable Environmental Management.

Many farmers have already taken initiatives to reduce their environmental impacts by fencing, planting stream banks, or retiring marginal country from grazing.

Another major environmental challenge confronting our agriculture is the sector's emissions of climate changing gases.

New Zealand and Australia are leading the world in research to find ways to reduce the amount of methane produced by grazing farm animals.

In this country farm emissions of methane account for thirty two percent of our total greenhouse gas emissions.

Over the past six years, millions of dollars have been invested in scientific research on the production of methane and nitrous oxide from grazing livestock.

We need to take seriously our environmental performance both for the sake of our planet - and if we are going to meet the challenge of global competition.

In high end markets around the world today there is growing demand for local and regional produce.

This stems from concerns about environmental sustainability, a preference for supporting local businesses and concerns over quality and food safety.

In some markets, domestic producers have not held back in giving voice to their demand for retailers to support local suppliers, such as Irish and Welsh sheep farmers.

Consumer movements have also put pressure on companies to source local products. In the United States, for example, McDonalds has been a target for using foreign beef.

Both our countries need to be able to answer these concerns convincingly.

We need to be able to say we are environmentally sustainable producers.

With forecast global shortages of food, there is perhaps no better time than now to be investing in producing a trusted source of food.

And the engine room of the growth that will meet that demand is innovation.

Innovation is crucial to improve pastoral production systems, animal breeding and genetics, processing technologies and market acceptance.

This reality is the basis of a number of collaborative partnerships forged between the two countries.

For example, New Zealand and Australian scientists, in collaboration with organisations in Canada and the USA, completed mapping the bovine genome in 2006.

More recently as part of an international consortium, scientists released a first draft of the sheep genome.

As a result scientists and industry will be able to identify and select superior genetics.

This will improve not only the management of livestock but also the quality of the products from them.

These are examples of how innovation can lead to productivity gains, lower costs and better efficiency, along with improvements to livestock, machinery and processes.

Research leading to the identification of marker genes for traits such as taste and texture can lead to the development of lamb cross-breeds that match specific customer requirements.

The recent mapping of the cow and sheep genomes pave the way for New Zealand and Australian scientists to advance this marker identification further and add more value.

Maintaining our competitive advantage will depend on our ability both to improve productivity and differentiate our products and diversify our markets.

I am excited by the potential for research and innovation to make a difference.

That's why I got the government to set up New Zealand Fast Forward.

It is a partnership between government and industry that will lift the long-term science base, capability, environmental performance and global competitiveness of New Zealand's pastoral and food industries.

The government will make a capital investment of $700 million over 10-15 years.

Industries and businesses in the pastoral and food sectors will match this spending.

It will help to connect New Zealand producers and manufacturers with both the demands of global markets and the scientists and researchers who can help develop solutions.

Our dairy and livestock industries face growing competition from lower-cost producers, and market - driven preferences.

It is imperative that we continue to innovate to meet this competition.

There are exciting opportunities for these industries to develop innovative products and services to meet a range of other emerging, high-value market demands.

Through collaboration and partnership, these industries can develop even more innovative ways of having value and volume.

I strongly believe that we must have both, and to continue to support smart research and smart business to ensure the continued success of our pastoral and livestock industries.

In increasingly uncertain times, it is our best survival strategy.

Have a stimulating and enjoyable conference.


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