James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Global food in focus at Fieldays

Mystery Creek organisers hope to top last year's attendance when 128,000 people came through the gates.

Jon Calder says Kiwi farmers could be at the forefront of feeding the world. Photo / Christine Cornege
Jon Calder says Kiwi farmers could be at the forefront of feeding the world. Photo / Christine Cornege

Kiwi farmers' expertise could help solve the problem of how to feed the world's rapidly growing population in the years ahead, says the boss of agriculture show Fieldays.

But for now, the organisers of this year's event at Mystery Creek and its hundreds of exhibitors are hoping they will just show up and spend some cash when the gates open today.

"Getting down to business in the global economy" is the theme at this year's Fieldays, which is the biggest agricultural show of its type in the Southern Hemisphere.

Representatives from nations including the United States, Chile, Colombia, China, India and Afghanistan are attending alongside more than 700 international visitors.

Fieldays chief executive Jon Calder said the theme was relevant as the Government sets a goal of doubling the country's agricultural exports by 2025.

He said Kiwi farmers were likely to be at the forefront of addressing the task of feeding the world's population, which is set to top nine billion by 2050.

"We believe that New Zealand is well-positioned to provide not just protein to feed that population but to actually provide the technology, the systems and innovative solutions to what is effectively a global problem," said Mr Calder.

"Based on our current production rates we can only feed about 45 million ... so we are never going to be able to produce enough food to feed the world but as one of the most forward-thinking and innovative agricultural economies in the world we think New Zealand is well-placed to help other countries improve their production."

Mr Calder said despite the summer drought he remained "cautiously optimistic" of good turnover at this year's event.

Organisers are hoping to top last year's attendance when 128,000 people walked through the gates over the event's four days.

An economic impact report completed by the University of Waikato Management Research Centre in 2010 showed the event's net benefit was $129 million to the Waikato economy and $529 million nationally.

Fieldays will this year host more than 900 exhibitors and events such as Ag Art Wear and an Innovation Den where inventors get to pitch their products to a panel of investors and business leaders.

Fieldays life member Sydney Fraser-Jones, who until recently ran the event's tractor pull competition, said Fieldays had grown hugely since it started at the Te Rapa racecourse 45 years ago.

Now 93, Mr Fraser-Jones has vivid memories of the event through its history including in its second year when a topdressing plane nose-dived and crashed shortly after taking off on the racecourse.

Big crowds

Fieldays attendances:
2012: 128,000
2011: 117,495
2010: 122,349
2009: 117,000
2008: 131,629

- NZ Herald

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