The Government's ambitious new plan to boost primary sector exports by $44 billion

In an ambitious new plan, the Government is aiming to boost primary sector exports by $44 billion over the coming decade.

The Fit for a Better World plan, released on Tuesday, outlines the roadmap for placing the primary industries at the heart of the country's post-COVID-19 economic rebuild.

The plan also includes sustainability goals, as well as a focus on inclusiveness, which aims to bring in more Kiwis from "all walks of life" to the primary sector.

"Farmers, growers, fishers and processors kept people fed and in jobs during our COVID-19 response and will continue to play a huge part in driving our economic recovery," said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday.

She said the plan is an attempt to spell out practical ways for the sector to "fetch more value, create more jobs and bolster our green reputation in a global pandemic environment".

As well as aiming to add $44 billion in export earnings in productivity from the primary industries, the plan also includes the goal of reducing biogenic methane to 24-47 percent below 2017 levels by 2050, including 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2030. 

The goal is also to have 10 percent more Kiwis employed in the primary sector by 2030.

"The Government is already backing parts of the roadmap with more than $1.5 billion invested in freshwater quality, water storage, to support exporters, reduce agriculture emissions, to help farmer catchment groups, for the One Billion Trees scheme, to get people into sector jobs, rural sector resilience and for horticulture to develop new high-value crops," Ardern said.

"To further kick-start delivery of the roadmap we’re accelerating nearly $100 million via the flagship Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures fund and in forestry for innovative and creative projects."

In order to lift export earnings by $10 billion per annum by 2030, the Government said it would develop more small-scale water storage to give farmers access to higher value land use options; accelerate the country's aquaculture strategy by improving regulatory settings and investment certainty, and invest in critical wharf and hatchery infrastructure; and help develop the horticulture industry by accelerating access to new high-value plant varieties and cultivars, and supporting the commercialisation of new products.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said the Government would be working with the industry over the coming months to roll the plan out. He also said a much-anticipated report on kickstarting the country's struggling wool industry would be released later this week.

The plan also aims to focus on opportunities in research, science, innovation and mātauranga Māori; new product development and revitalising the strong wool sector; Māori agribusiness; creating new bodies to drive transformation; developing new export markets; and modernising the sector's key regulatory systems.

Funding the plan

The plan would be paid for using money already allocated as part of Budget 2020, and by redirecting existing funding, such as bringing forward $84 million to upscale the Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures, and using $11.6 million from the One BIllion Trees Fund to invest in forestry initiatives, the Government said.

The plan also incorporates initiatives already being invested in, for example, $122 million was earmarked towards supporting farmer-led solutions as part of the Government's $229 million investment in productive and sustainable land use, and $31 million was destined to go to improving the monitoring of fishing catch on commercial fishing vessels. A further $480 million was also already being invested in forestry, through the One Billion Trees and Crown Forestry Joint Venture Programme.

Also included are a number of funding initiatives announced in this year's Budget, such as a $1.1 billion boost given to create 11,000 environmental jobs in the regions, and $111.2 million invested in providing support for rural and fishing villages, ensuring the supply of food to Kiwis by redirecting food waste, addressing animal welfare issues, addressing market access issues for horticulture and attracting New Zealanders to job opportunities in the primary sector.