Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen – Xin chao qui vi, kia ora and greetings! I want to acknowledge Mr Tran Kim Long, Acting Director-General of the International Cooperation Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development; Dr Dang Kim Son, Director in the Institute of Policy and Strategy for Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development; Mr Bui Quy Long from the Ministry of Science and Technology; Dr Michael Lay-Yee from NZ Plant and Food Research; Dr Nguyen Minh Chau from Southern Horticulture Research Institute (SOFRI); Dr Nguyen Duy Duc from the Sub-Institute for Agricultural Engineering and Postharvest Technology (SIAEP); Mr Nguyen Van Ky General Secretary of the Viet Nam Fruit and Vegetable Association; and Mr Tran Ngoc Tiep from Hoang Hau Dragon Fruit Farm.
It is a pleasure to be here in Ho Chi Minh City. I have just come from a lunch hosted by the Chairman Quan of the People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City. I noted that although this is my first visit to Ho Chi Minh City, it’s the third time I’ve visited Viet Nam. Since arriving in Ho Chi Minh City, my wife and I have been impressed by the city’s dynamism and energy; and the friendliness of its people.
And so I am delighted to be here today to celebrate the launch of this exciting development assistance project – the Viet Nam-New Zealand New Premium Fruit Variety Project. This is a historic and momentous occasion, and I congratulate SOFRI, SIAEP and NZ Plant and Food Research for their contributions.
An important feature of the long friendship between our two countries has been New Zealand’s provision of official development assistance to Viet Nam.
That assistance began in the early 1960s when a surgical team travelled to Viet Nam to provide medical assistance to the war wounded. Since that time support has grown with many projects delivered in a diverse range of areas, including early childhood education; maternal and child health; climate change adaptation; forestry; disaster risk management; and land reform.
Given New Zealand’s strength as a leading producer of agricultural and horticultural products, a key area of our assistance to Viet Nam has been in agriculture. The focus has been on supporting small-holder farmers to improve the quality and yield of crops for local markets.
However, in recognising Viet Nam’s rapid economic development and changing needs, this Dragon Fruit project takes that support to another level. The focus of this project is on sharing New Zealand’s innovative agricultural technologies and processes that have led to our success in export markets. It is a project that sees New Zealand and Vietnamese agricultural research institutes working together in partnership to develop and commercialise new fruit varieties that will bring significantly higher returns to farmers and small and medium enterprises.
The New Zealand horticultural industry has benefited significantly from being able to develop new fruit varieties. I look forward to a time when the Vietnamese economy will also reap the same benefits from accessing export markets for its fruit varieties as New Zealand has from our Zespri kiwifruit and gold kiwifruit and Jazz apple fruit varieties.
I also look forward to a time when more Vietnamese fruit will be available in New Zealand. Currently, we have an import health standard that has been developed for Vietnamese mangoes, and within the next year we should have one in place for dragon fruit as well.
In conclusion, I want to congratulate everyone who has been involved in this project. As the world becomes smaller and our economies draw together through Asia-Pacific regional economic integration, there are increasing opportunities for us to work together in the agricultural and horticultural sectors. We look forward to continuing to build a strong and mutually beneficial relationship across the board and especially in agriculture. Thank you and again, congratulations.