Un­der­stand­ing hor­ti­cul­ture

The Orchardist - - Under The Mikeroscope - Mike Chap­man is chief ex­ec­u­tive of Hort NZ

Gen­er­at­ing in­ter­est in hor­ti­cul­ture dur­ing nor­mal times is not easy; the me­dia, gov­ern­ment, and coun­cils re­spond to bad news. Re­cent weather events are a good ex­am­ple of this sit­u­a­tion, and bad weather pro­motes in­ter­est in hor­ti­cul­ture from the wrong view point. The me­dia is im­me­di­ately in­ter­ested in whether prices for fresh veg­eta­bles will in­crease, de­spite fresh veg­eta­bles be­ing one of the cheap­est gro­cery items. There ap­pears to be an as­sump­tion that bad weather is good for grow­ers’ in­come, but this is far from the truth. It is Hort NZ’s task to try and ed­u­cate the me­dia and the pub­lic about what really hap­pens when there is bad weather, par­tic­u­larly mak­ing the point that in­creased prices do not mean grow­ers get ex­tra money and, if they do, it will at best only com­pen­sate them for the crops they have lost.

This high­lights the grow­ing di­vide between ur­ban and ru­ral New Zealand. More peo­ple live in towns and cities than in the coun­try­side, which in gen­eral means that there is less un­der­stand­ing of the pres­sures fac­ing ru­ral New Zealand and, in par­tic­u­lar, hor­ti­cul­ture. A lot of fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles are grown close to towns and cities and, as the town or city ex­pands, high-qual­ity land for grow­ing fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles is pro­gres­sively lost. Ur­ban New Zealand needs to be shown that the con­tin­ual loss of land for grow­ing may see New Zealand hav­ing to im­port its fresh veg­eta­bles in spring. This is not a re­gional is­sue that can be left to lo­cal coun­cils, it is a mat­ter for the gov­ern­ment to ad­dress through some­thing like a food se­cu­rity pol­icy. See the ar­ti­cle later in this mag­a­zine for more on this is­sue.

New Zealand is com­ing un­der in­creas­ing pres­sure to meet its Emis­sions Trad­ing Scheme (EMS) tar­gets. To do this, there will need to be a rad­i­cal re-think of what New Zealand pro­duces. There will need to be a re-fo­cus on forestry and hor­ti­cul­ture, and such a change can­not be achieved with an ad hoc, re­gion by re­gion ap­proach work­ing through each lo­cal coun­cil. It is

some­thing that will need to be led by the gov­ern­ment.

New Zealand’s wealth is re­liant on ex­ports. Some 60% of our fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles is ex­ported earn­ing New Zealand valu­able over­seas’ rev­enue, and more of our fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles will need to be ex­ported in the fu­ture, as pre­mium pro­duce earns the high value re­turns that we need to sus­tain these grow­ing op­er­a­tions in New Zealand. The cost of trans­port­ing our pro­duce to the over­seas mar­kets is very ex­pen­sive as New Zealand is a long way from our key mar­kets. To earn these pre­mium re­turns, we need to use the best pos­si­ble land / soils in the best pos­si­ble ar­eas and have ready ac­cess to wa­ter.To en­sure that this land is re­served for hor­ti­cul­ture, there needs to be a food se­cu­rity pol­icy that not only con­cen­trates on en­sur­ing we can feed New Zealand,

but also en­sures that we can in­crease pro­duc­tion to earn over­seas re­turn for New Zealand, re­plac­ing the in­come lost by the nec­es­sary re­duc­tion in an­i­mal farm­ing.

Ev­ery New Zealan­der can con­trib­ute to food se­cu­rity by buy­ing lo­cal fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles when in sea­son. Par­lia­ment cur­rently has a Bill be­fore it that, if made law, will re­quire fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles to be la­belled with their coun­try of ori­gin. For loose fruit and veg­etable this can be done by la­belling the bin they are in, and for la­belled or pack­aged fruit and veg­eta­bles this can be done on the la­bel or on the packaging. Our ex­ports are la­belled pro­duce of New Zealand al­ready, so it is time for our all pro­duce in New Zealand, par­tic­u­larly im­ported fruit and veg­eta­bles, to be la­belled so that shop­pers can elect to buy lo­cal if they so wish. Sub­mis­sions are due with the se­lect com­mit­tee on May 18, and there is a Face­book page you can show your sup­port by go­ing to coun­try of ori­gin NZ in Face­book.

The fu­ture pros­per­ity of and feed­ing New Zealand is de­pen­dent on hor­ti­cul­ture con­tin­u­ing to have ac­cess to high qual­ity land and wa­ter in good grow­ing ar­eas. To en­able this all of New Zealand needs to play a role. The gov­ern­ment can do this with a wide rang­ing and com­pre­hen­sive food se­cu­rity pol­icy, coun­cils can do it by sup­port­ing and im­ple­ment­ing this pol­icy, and ev­ery per­son can do this by hav­ing the choice to sup­port lo­cal pro­duce through manda­tory coun­try of ori­gin la­belling.

For New Zealand to meet its emis­sions tar­gets there needs to be a re-fo­cus on forestry and hor­ti­cul­ture. Graphic by Hope Walker.

New Zealand's elite grow­ing soils are be­ing buried un­der hous­ing sub-di­vi­sions. Photo Nigel Marple.

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