Un­der the Mikero­scope

It is just six months un­til New Zealand elects a new gov­ern­ment.

The Orchardist - - Contents - Mike Chap­man is chief ex­ec­u­tive of Hort NZ

Elec­tion year a time for ac­tion

This pre-elec­tion time presents us all with the op­por­tu­nity to put for­ward ideas for the var­i­ous par­ties’ elec­tion man­i­festos, as well as ideas for a new gov­ern­ment to put into ac­tion once they are elected.

For a num­ber of years, Hor­ti­cul­ture New Zealand has cam­paigned for there to be manda­tory Coun­try of Ori­gin La­belling (CoOL) on fresh fruit and fresh veg­eta­bles. This is so that New Zealand con­sumers can make choices when they are buy­ing fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles about which coun­try they come from. These choices may in­clude sup­port­ing lo­cally grown pro­duce that con­trib­utes to both the lo­cal and na­tional econ­omy.

To es­tab­lish some ev­i­dence about what con­sumers want, an in­de­pen­dent Con­sumer NZ sur­vey con­ducted in Fe­bru­ary this year asked a series of ques­tions about buy­ing fresh fruit and fresh veg­eta­bles. The sur­vey con­firms that con­sumers want to both buy fresh and to sup­port their lo­cal grow­ers. In fact, 71% of those sur­veyed and, three out of ev­ery four fe­male re­spon­dents, want manda­tory CoOL.This sends a very strong mes­sage to our politi­cians.

The gov­ern­ment has pre­vi­ously pre­sented at least two rea­sons given why manda­tory CoOL should not be made law in New Zealand, but we don’t be­lieve they stack up.

The first is that it could breach World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion rules. Yet the ma­jor­ity of coun­tries we ex­port fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles to, in­clud­ing Aus­tralia, have manda­tory CoOL and this has not been sub­ject to any trade con­cerns.

The other reason is that there is vol­un­tary com­pli­ance and there­fore, there is no need to man­date it. There is vol­un­tary com­pli­ance in the ma­jor su­per­mar­ket chains. But not all fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles are pur­chased at the su­per­mar­ket. The Con­sumer NZ sur­vey re­ported that 22% was pur­chased out­side of these chains. The sur­vey asked con­sumers if they look for coun­try of ori­gin la­belling when shop­ping, and did they find it? The re­sult was that 66% of said they looked for it but could only find it 32% of the time for fresh fruit and 29% of the time for fresh veg­eta­bles.

An­other pol­icy for elec­tion man­i­festos and the new gov­ern­ment to adopt is a Food Se­cu­rity Pol­icy.

Other coun­tries around the world have poli­cies like this to en­sure that their do­mes­tic pro­duc­ers can feed (as much as is pos­si­ble) their peo­ple.

Hor­ti­cul­ture New Zealand has raised with gov­ern­ment the need for such a pol­icy for New Zealand. There needs to be a con­sis­tent ap­proach across New Zealand for the pro­tec­tion of high-value land that is suit­able for hor­ti­cul­ture. Around ev­ery city and town in our ma­jor hor­ti­cul­ture grow­ing ar­eas there are pres­sures for hor­ti­cul­tural land to be turned into houses. The most crit­i­cal at present is around Pukekohe, where the Auck­land Coun­cil wants to put around 30,000 new houses.

Pukekohe is a prime ex­am­ple why a Food Se­cu­rity Pol­icy is needed. In spring, New Zealand’s leafy greens and spring pota­toes and car­rots come from Pukekohe. If we lose Pukekohe to houses, then New Zealand will end up im­port­ing those veg­eta­bles from other coun­tries. With­out manda­tory CoOL, con­sumers will not know where their fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles have come from.

A sig­nif­i­cant challenge that New Zealand has to face is how to achieve net zero emis­sions by 2050. A re­port pre­pared for Globe NZ asks this question and in­di­cates how New Zealand may achieve this tar­get. One of the sce­nar­ios has pas­toral stock re­duc­ing by up to 35%. The re­port sug­gests that forestry and hor­ti­cul­ture will need to re­place the ex­port re­turns earned at present. (This re­port is cov­ered in greater de­tail later in this mag­a­zine).

Hor­ti­cul­tural ex­ports are al­ready grow­ing at a rapid rate – for the two-year pe­riod from June 2014, by just un­der 40% in value. But this growth will need to con­tinue and for that to hap­pen, there needs to be recog­ni­tion and pro­tec­tion of ex­ist­ing hor­ti­cul­ture.

More than just recog­ni­tion of ex­ist­ing grow­ing op­er­a­tions is re­quired. There also needs to be a con­certed fo­cus on de­vel­op­ing hor­ti­cul­ture and this will need to be sup­ported by the gov­ern­ment of the day. This is not some­thing that can be left to re­gional and district coun­cils.The gov­ern­ment needs to take the lead by putting in place poli­cies that iden­tify where our fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles comes from, pro­tect the land they are grown on, and pro­vide con­sis­tent na­tional poli­cies en­abling the con­tin­ued growth of hor­ti­cul­ture to as­sist New Zealand meet its Emis­sions Trad­ing Scheme un­der­tak­ings.

Hor­ti­cul­ture New Zealand is rais­ing the need for ac­tion on these poli­cies. Can you also raise them with your MP and the can­di­dates for this year’s elec­tion?

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