Tuesday, 27 August 2019 10:55

MPI moves with hort

Written by  Peter Burke
Ray Smith. Ray Smith.

The rise and rise of horticulture is prompting MPI to reconfigure its operations.

Chief executive Ray Smith says with the sector planning to go from a $6 billion industry to a $10b industry there are things MPI needs to do. 

The first is on biosecurity.

“For the nearly one million containers that come into New Zealand and the parcels coming into the mail centre and the tourists -- we have to do everything we can to stop pests and diseases getting in. 

“And if they do get in [we must] act quickly and with the industry.” 

Smith told Rural News he’s impressed with how MPI has worked with the industry to contain the recent fruit fly problem. That’s an example of working together and there is a need to strengthen those bonds.

“But there are other issues for an industry that is growing such as labour supply and skills. I think of young NZers who haven’t grown up, as many of us have, with a real connection to the agricultural or horticultural sector so we have to teach them about that. 

“We are looking about how we get into secondary schools to get people excited about our primary industries and the job opportunities there.” 

And it’s not just training and labour supply, it’s also robotics, says Smith. He’s talked to people part way through designing robotic machines which could help alleviate some of the labour supply problems.

“They want us to back them to develop their products and I would like to do that,” he said. 

Smith notes MPI’s massive regulatory role, the ‘bottom line’ keeping our system intact. 

But he says the top line is to “see the industries grow” and for MPI to partner with them to find ways to support them.

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