Innovation in New Zealand’s Agribusiness sectorPrimary Industries
Thank you for this opportunity to speak today, it’s great to be here in Mexico.
Today I’d like to talk a little about what New Zealand has to offer and about innovation in the New Zealand primary sector. I will also talk about our delegation and offer my thoughts on the New Zealand-Mexico relationship.
It’s my view that one of the biggest challenges the world faces in the coming decades is feeding its rapidly growing population. Growing markets, particularly in Asia, and the expansion of the global middle class, means that agricultural producers will struggle to keep up with demand.
The way I look at this is that the world’s biggest challenge can also be a nation’s biggest opportunity. As a nation of over 4 million that feeds around 40 million, New Zealand is well placed to take hold of this opportunity.
New Zealand prides itself on our world class reputation for producing high quality primary produce. But this reputation is not earned simply by producing mouth-watering steaks or outstanding wines, such as the ones displayed on the banner behind me.
New Zealand’s reputation is built on trust and integrity. It is vital that we always retain this. That is why we have developed a world leading food safety regime.
It is why we carefully manage the impacts of production on our environment, and it is why we strive to have a world class animal welfare system.
We need to assure our customers that New Zealand’s produce is made in a high quality, safe, ethical, and environmentally sustainable manner.
In my opinion maintaining this reputation is paramount for New Zealand’s economic future.
Just like your government, the New Zealand Government is focused on economic growth, particularly in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, and in the aftermath of a series of devastating earthquakes in Christchurch.
As Minister for Primary Industries, a key focus of mine is to boost the productivity and competitiveness of New Zealand’s primary sector.
In the 1980s New Zealand underwent a comprehensive structural reform. These reforms removed agricultural subsidies along with a wide range of other industry protections.
Because of these reforms, New Zealand is now one of the most efficient agricultural producers in the world. Following these reforms New Zealand primary sector productivity has doubled. By way of example, today we produce the same amount of lamb meat that we did prior to the reforms, but with half the number of sheep.
While this is good progress we need to do better. In terms of international trade New Zealand is at a distinct disadvantage. We are a small country, with a small population, and we are located in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean at the bottom of the world. But as I’ve said, your biggest challenges can also be your biggest opportunities. Our trading disadvantage has meant that we need to do more with less, and to work smarter.
Innovation in the primary sector is a key priority for me and for the New Zealand government. That is why we launched the Primary Growth Partnership, or the PGP. The PGP is a partnership between industry and government. We jointly invest in research and innovation that will deliver long term economic growth and sustainability to the primary sector.
There is an exciting variety of projects underway. From selective mussel breeding, to steep land forest harvesting. From improving pasture quality to increasing the value extracted from animal carcasses.
The Prime Minister and I have a brought a number of our leading businesses with us on this trip. These businesses are all on the cutting edge of agricultural innovation.
These companies have expertise in technology for horticulture, animal health and pasture based farming systems. There are representatives from dairy, meat, horticulture and agricultural education companies.
We also have a number of high technology companies from outside the agriculture sector. Telecommunications, aeronautical technology, electricity generation, bio-pharmaceutics and robotics are all represented here.
So why have we come here?
Mexico has astonishing potential. It is truly an exciting time to be here. As one of the world’s major emerging economies, on the edge of a thriving Asia-Pacific region, with strong export growth, and with a government focused on driving further economic growth – I agree with the commentators, this year is Mexico’s moment.
Trade relationships between New Zealand and Mexico are growing stronger. New Zealand companies are investing in Mexico with Fisher and Paykel, Pumpkin Patch and Milmeq are but a few who have established themselves here in recent times. On this note I also applaud you for considering Zespri as a provider for the ‘fruit in schools’ national campaign here in Mexico.
New Zealand can also learn a lot from Mexico, just as I hope Mexico can learn from New Zealand. Mexico’s reputation for a high quality horticulture industry is well known in New Zealand. I hope that we can have the opportunity to learn from your knowledge and expertise in this area.
I want New Zealand to be a part of the Mexico story, just as I want Mexico to be a part of the New Zealand story. Working together means we both become stronger.
I’d like to quickly mention two very exciting initiatives New Zealand and Mexico are working on at the moment. I am very pleased that Mexico has joined the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. I think it is quite fitting that the first round Mexico attended was in New Zealand late last year. I look forward to the optimistic October 2013 finish date for the negotiations. The TPP has great potential to change the way the Asia-Pacific does business, and to make the region as a whole more competitive and more productive.
I am also excited about the Global Research Alliance. This is an exciting initiative that I am confident can produce practical solutions to climate change. As food producing nations it is in both of our interests to make sure we can mitigate impacts from production on the environment. It is pleasing to see New Zealand and Mexico collaborating in this space.
I was asked yesterday what I thought New Zealand’s value proposition as in Latin America.
My answer was that I truly believe New Zealand is the best in the world at what we do. We produce high quality and high value goods.
We take account of our environmental impacts and use science to minimise them. And we have designed assurance systems that enable markets all over the world to trust our food and our products.
This is my value proposition. We are here in Mexico with all of this expertise and energy. And we are willing to engage and collaborate with you.
In my opinion governments can only do so much for increasing trade and furthering economic growth. We are here to facilitate and to enable. And that is why I’m here talking to you. It is now over to you in this room to build those people to people relationships and for companies to now be prepared to take the next steps.
I will conclude by noting that this year marks the fortieth anniversary of diplomatic relations between Mexico and New Zealand. We have a strong and friendly history, and I look forward to seeing this relationship grow stronger.
As Minister, I will continue to push to strengthen this relationship at every opportunity. I encourage you all to do the same, starting today.
Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.