The Government wants to offset the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy by boosting primary sector export earnings over the next decade.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern outlined a plan to lift primary sector earnings by $44 billion over the next 10 years by creating value and employing more people, while at the same time sticking to environmentally sustainability targets.

Ardern said the primary sector had already made significant strides to improve the sustainability of New Zealand's products and practices, but that there was potential to go further.

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In releasing its "The Fit for a Better World" plan for the primary sector, Ardern said the Government planned to spend nearly $100 million through the Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures fund and in forestry for innovative and creative projects.

"The Government is already backing parts of the road map with more than $1.5b invested in freshwater quality, water storage, supporting exporters, reducing agriculture emissions, assisting farmer catchment groups, the One Billion Trees scheme, getting people into sector jobs, rural sector resilience and developing new high-value crops," Ardern said in a statement.

The Government wants to reduce the country's biogenic methane emissions to 24-47 per cent below 2017 levels by 2050; and 10 per cent below by 2030.

It also wants to restore New Zealand's freshwater environments to a healthy state within a generation.

The paper outlines a plan to employ 10 per cent more New Zealanders in the food and fibre sector by 2030, and 15,000 more Kiwis in the primary sector workforce over the next four years.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said the sector's ability to record 4.5 per cent growth in the past year with forecast export growth of $48b, despite Covid-19, highlighted demand for New Zealand's quality products.

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But he said the sector could not rely on volume growth to generate greater returns.

The paper said that with the big export earners such as tourism and international education unable to re-open until its safe for international visitors to cross the board, primary sector exports would become more important.


The paper also said demand for New Zealand products was already running high.

"Our primary sectors have the opportunity to extract greater value across the value chain, by being responsive to evolving consumer wants and needs, and by being smarter and more innovative than our global competitors," it said.

"Leveraging off our global brand is one way we can extract a global competitive advantage, but quality and integrity must continue to be at the heart of everything we do," the paper said.