Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has announced a series of initiatives to fill critical jobs in the food and fibre sector.
Speaking at the March launch of the United Nations International Year of Fruit and Vegetables held at Parliament, he says Covid has shown us the priorities of life.
“Whether it was the line up outside the supermarkets or going to the cupboard and getting exactly what we wanted every day, suddenly we realised the importance of food and our access to it.”
O’Connor’s other key message was a focus on the amount of food in the world that is wasted; estimates vary, but it’s up to a third in some places. He says if less food was wasted, there’d be a significant reduction of greenhouse gases.
“We can be the best growers and farmers for the world and its through sophisticated organisations like Plant and Food, and innovation and energy from the growers across our country, that we can develop the cultivars that are not only suited to NZ but to others,” he says.
O’Connor recognised the hard times that many growers are going through at the moment to get their crops picked, but says he is hopeful the country will get through this.
Meanwhile, HortNZ says often forgotten is the vital role growers play in ensuring fresh fruit and vegetables are on the table.
Chief executive Mike Chapman says Covid has shown NZ that it cannot rely on imports and has highlighted how lucky the country is that it can grow most of its own food.
“We need to make sure that we protect this ability,” he says.
“But at the same time, fruit and vegetable growers are being asked to meet increasingly strict objectives for climate change and compliance in general, without the important role of feeding people being factored in. If NZ is to meet its climate change and economic goals, growers and farmers need to be empowered to adapt and reduce emissions.”
Chapman says that if NZ growers are given the tools, incentives and time, they could lead the world in climate change adaption and global food production. He notes that this will require significant research and development to find the tools and techniques needed to make a difference.