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Raising awareness of where food comes from

Wednesday 12 October 2016

One of the less obvious challenges facing New Zealand’s primary sector is that only 14 per cent of the population now lives rurally, and 81 per cent of teens – many of whom will be needed to work in the sector – say they know only a little or nothing about fishing, farming and food production.

 A recent Rabobank survey of urban teens found that 72 per cent don’t know anything, or know just a little, about how food gets from the sea to plate. Viewed in that light, it’s not surprising that there’s a lack of knowledge of primary industry career opportunities and false perceptions about what that career entails.

 A quality and substantial workforce will be needed to maintain the primary sector’s fundamental importance to New Zealand, especially when agriculture, horticulture, forestry, mining and fishing account for 7.6 per cent of GDP (agriculture around 5.0 per cent and processing of primary food a further 2.8 per cent).

 Primary ITO Schools Liaison Manager, Derek McCullum, says the challenge is to attract good quality people – for the right reasons – into the primary sectors.

 “A more urbanised population does make it difficult,” he says.

 The fight back

But the primary sector is fighting back with a whole range of co-ordinated initiatives, says McCullum.

 “It’s clear that primary industries aren’t just sitting on their hands worrying. “

 However, he says it’s important to make sure that attracting and informing young people about careers in primary industries is industry led.

“Primary ITO continues to work with industries to establish what skills businesses want for employees because it’s not just a question of the right people, but the right people doing the right things for the right reasons.

 “We connect employers with students so that everybody is making the right choices. It is as much about knowledge, information and exposure as it is about brokering opportunities and connecting all stakeholders,” he says.

For all the talk about diversifying the New Zealand economy, the fact is that primary industry is not only critical to this country, but also New Zealand’s role as an important global food basket now, and in a future that requires a global increase in food production of 70 per cent by 2050.

 But it’s going to be the young people in the suburban schools of Mt Roskill, Fendalton, Porirua, Ashburton and others that we will be depending on to get us there, McCullum says.

For more information, please contact: Anna Cox, Primary ITO Communications Adviser or call (04) 382 2853, or mobile (027) 436 6469.

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