The New Zealand agricultural sector must speak with one voice if it is to increase productivity and maintain its international reputation, says the co-editor of a new book launched at the Manawatu campus yesterday. Future Food Farming: New Zealand Inc. meeting tomorrow’s markets is co-edited by rural journalist and farmer Alan Emerson and Director of Massey Agriculture Professor Jacqueline Rowarth.
Contributors to the book joined with stakeholders today at the Future Food Farming forum to discuss the issues facing the primary industry.
Mr Emerson told the forum that an industry body speaking on behalf of the entire agricultural and horticultural sector was needed.
“The primary sector is well placed to lead the nation’s growth, but it also faces a number of problems,” he said. “The high dollar, the bizarre demands placed on crown research institutes and a lack of attention from the mainstream media are all issues. What is needed is a single voice to speak for the sector, a green table that brings together the issues facing the sector into a coherent strategy.”
Professor Rowarth told the forum that more must be done to entice school leavers into studying science and technology at university. “An educated workforce is able to pick up new technology must faster and therefore increase productivity,” she said. “The sciences provide recession-proof employment, with job placements up more than 10 per cent.”
Shane Ardern, a dairy farmer, MP for Taranaki-King Country and chairman of Parliament’s primary production select committee, opened the forum.
Mr Ardern said that research and development was critical to maintaining New Zealand’s edge in overseas markets, and places such as Massey University played a pivotal role in shaping the New Zealand economy. The question of how to feed the growing world population was a key one, Mr Ardern said.
“The primary sector cannot rest: we have to be smarter, innovative, flexible in order to survive into the future. Innovation is key to building future markets and economic growth.”
Contributors to the book also spoke at the forum, including Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health head Professor Richard Archer, New Zealand Biochar Centre co-director Associate Professor Marta Camps, AgResearch’s Dr Jim Crush and NZX chief executive Mark Weldon. The book is published with the support of the Agricultural and Marketing Development Trust.