Opunake & Coastal News Column 8th May 2015

Columns
Friday, May 8, 2015

New Zealand’s primary industries – heading in the right direction.

Taranaki is a strong region for primary industries, and we pride ourselves on excellence and production. The National Government is committed to the continued growth, innovation, research, skills and training to ensure NZ continues to be a world leader in primary industries.

The national dairy milking area has grown from 1.3 to 1.7 million ha over the last 15 years, with two periods of high expansion – 2000 to 2002 and 2008 to 2010 – when relative returns were very favourable.

The Secretary Treasurer conveyed strong confidence in the overall value of NZ dairy opportunities in a growing Asian market over the next decade. There was also a better-than-expected growth of $933 million across the meat and wool, horticulture, fisheries and other sectors, which will partially offset the current fall from dairy. Also global beef prices are expected to stay high for the next two years. However innovation is key to growth and the primary industries are transforming rapidly and adding greater value to what we produce.

Some examples of this transformation include greater automation and precision agriculture, greater use of engineered timber, and a shifting focus towards Asian markets. The Government is committed to investing in science and technology to help measure and reduce the environmental impact of our primary industries.

The primary industries currently employ 350,000 people and account for one in six jobs. In some regions the primary industries account for nearly one in three jobs. Improvements in primary industry skills are required, and we need to attract, train and retain talented people to take full advantage of the opportunities. The Government launched the Enterprising Primary Industries Career Challenge (EPIC) in May 2014 to raise awareness about the many and varied careers that can be found in the primary industries.

The 2014 Budget also provided an additional 8.5 percent or $8.47 million over four years to increase tuition subsidy rates for degree-level and above for agriculture, horticulture, viticulture, forestry studies and other agriculture, environmental and related studies.

The government has a goal of doubling the value of exports by 2025. Around half our exports are food, so our food safety systems are closely linked to this goal. NZ’s food exports were worth around $30 billion last year, which was almost a twenty percent increase from the year before. New Zealand prides itself as a producer of safe, high quality food – sold here and overseas.

Having a well regulated food safety system means consumers can have confidence that the risks to public health from foodborne illness are minimised.

We are currently in the consultation phase of the Food Safety Law Reform Bill and are seeking feedback from the public and those in the food industry to ensure the proposed changes are usable and practical for all involved. As we continue to grow and innovate our primary industries will only continue to strengthen.