with Mike Chapman
Commercial fruit and vegetable growers know the cost of everything. With challenges such as unpredictable weather, it can be difficult enough to grow high quality fruit and vegetables, but then growers also face a list of costs.
They pay for processing, packaging, transportation, promotions, and all the other costs to get produce to the point of sale. In recent years, increased compliance and a land takeover for urban development and lifestyle blocks have increased these costs.
On top, the grower pays for industry organisations that support their right to farm and enable them to continuing growing with the least possible red tape. It is therefore important that, like every other person the grower pays, industry organisations such as Horticulture New Zealand deliver value to every grower.
Increasing the profile of horticulture and developing the public’s understanding of the industry are prime functions for Horticulture New Zealand. This extends to being a strong advocate with local and central government as they develop policies, to ensure that horticulture can continue to flourish and grow. Proactive industry organisations engage with mainstream and social media channels to gain public support and promote industry positions to government.
Examples of recent issues that Horticulture New Zealand has been active in include being a strong advocate for Country of Origin labelling for fresh fruit and vegetables to give consumers the information they want; pointing out during last year’s election campaign the problems with a proposed water tax; getting media and political attention on the need to protect areas where we grow our fruit and vegetables so that we can continue to feed New Zealand without importing produce; and pointing out the need for water storage for future production, particularly in the face of climate change.
Right to farm
The right to farm is a strong focus for industry organisations and this includes making submissions to central government and regional and district councils. At the most basic level, these submissions permit growers to grow their fruit and vegetables. This is an area where industry organisations need to be vigilant and produce the best evidence-based submissions.
Our challenge has been to get horticulture recognised as part of the primary sector and to get people to understand the particular needs around enabling plants to be grown successfully. Access to water is a key area, as without the right quantities of water at the right time, plant growth cannot be achieved.
Pests and diseases
Another key area is protecting New Zealand and our growers from unwanted pests and diseases from other countries. The devastating incursions that New Zealand’s primary sector endures are the only evidence needed for this to be all industry organisations’ prime concern.
Attracting talent, providing viable career pathways, and working to have immigration options in place so there are sufficient workers available when they are needed are also aspects industry organisations work on.
At Horticulture New Zealand, we aim to create an enduring environment where growers and the communities they live in prosper. To achieve that, we are doing all of the above, and working closely with other industry organisations, the commercial entities that service the industry, and growers.