Un­der the Mikero­scope

De­liv­er­ing on a di­ver­sity of is­sues

The Orchardist - - Contents - By Richard Palmer, Deputy chief ex­ec­u­tive Hor­ti­cul­ture New Zealand

These last weeks of my ten­ure at HortNZ have high­lighted the di­ver­sity of our role and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties; speak­ing to ex­porters and in­ter­na­tional col­leagues at Asia Fruit Lo­gis­tica in Hong Kong, biose­cu­rity re­sponses, dis­cussing agri­cul­ture and the Emis­sions Trad­ing Scheme (ETS) and re­spond­ing to nee­dles in straw­ber­ries – a crim­i­nal is­sue that threat­ens both con­sumers and grow­ers.

Work­ing for grow­ers over the last three and a half years has been in­cred­i­bly re­ward­ing and in­ter­est­ing, and I thought it use­ful to re­flect a bit on what has been achieved.

It has been my ab­so­lute plea­sure to have served the grow­ers of New Zealand by en­hanc­ing biose­cu­rity; lift­ing the pro­file of hor­ti­cul­ture in Welling­ton trade cir­cles and help­ing to get recog­ni­tion of New Zealand Good Agri­cul­tural Prac­tice (NZGAP) for Food Act pur­poses.

A few high­lights stand out in the biose­cu­rity space over the last three years. Firstly, I’ve had the tremen­dous sat­is­fac­tion of work­ing with other biose­cu­rity man­agers, re­searchers and Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries (MPI) staff across the breadth of the biose­cu­rity sys­tem.

Se­condly, I’ve been able to re­cruit some of the best peo­ple avail­able into HortNZ to de­liver on biose­cu­rity for our in­dus­try. With their sup­port, I chaired the samu­rai wasp steer­ing com­mit­tee that pre­pared and lodged the bio­con­trol ap­pli­ca­tion with the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Au­thor­ity (EPA). With sound guid­ance from EPA, we re­ceived ap­proval for the first ever pre-emp­tive ap­pli­ca­tion for a bio­con­trol in NZ – a cru­cial re­sult for grow­ers. On be­half of the brown mar­morated stink bug (BMSB) coun­cil, HortNZ will take for­ward the next phase of this project – ac­tu­ally get­ting the wasp into NZ should we need it.

In my last cou­ple of weeks, MPI has recog­nised the in­dus­try GAP schemes for Food Act equiv­a­lence, and looks set to recog­nise our GAP au­di­tors. This has taken many years but it fi­nally feels worth all the ef­fort. This will make grower com­pli­ance sim­pler, will save costs, and im­por­tantly recog­nises our in­dus­try’s sys­tem­atic ap­proach to food safety.

Our great­est chal­lenge has been, and con­tin­ues to be, get­ting ac­cep­tance of the need for a NZ pri­mary in­dus­try story ex­tend­ing be­yond meat and milk. With im­pres­sive growth and de­mand in our sec­tor’s prod­ucts, shift­ing the fo­cus and re­sourc­ing to sup­port this is both nec­es­sary and a crit­i­cal func­tion of HortNZ.

Our pri­or­i­ties are to en­hance ac­cess to mar­kets and labour, to drive the nec­es­sary in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment and to cre­ate the many other en­ablers for our sec­tor to reach its full po­ten­tial.

“With im­pres­sive growth and de­mand in our sec­tor’s prod­ucts, shift­ing the fo­cus and re­sourc­ing to sup­port this is both nec­es­sary and a crit­i­cal func­tion of HortNZ.”

I’ve been im­pressed by MPI and Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs and Trade (MFAT) staff I’ve worked with on our trade is­sues, but we need greater in­vest­ment in this area for hor­ti­cul­ture, so that when a meat quota is­sue pops up in a mar­ket we aren’t left stranded with­out ex­perts and ca­pac­ity. Like­wise, the ir­ri­ga­tion de­bate has been hi­jacked by anti-ir­ri­ga­tion/ dairy in­ter­ests with­out any con­sid­er­a­tion of the need to pro­vide wa­ter cer­tainty to high value hor­ti­cul­ture, usu­ally at a sub­stan­tively lower emis­sions load. We can’t progress as an agri­cul­tural na­tion with­out broad­en­ing the base and en­abling higher value land use propo­si­tions to flour­ish.

A rapidly chang­ing land­scape of NZ and global reg­u­la­tions, un­cer­tain trade con­di­tions and cli­mate change all present chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties for NZ’s hor­ti­cul­tural sec­tor. An im­por­tant part of man­ag­ing the chal­lenges and fully re­al­is­ing the op­por­tu­ni­ties is hav­ing ca­pa­ble in­dus­try or­gan­i­sa­tions to help ad­vo­cate for pol­icy, ac­tion, and in­vest­ment that sup­ports our grow­ers and, in our case, gives cer­tainty of fresh, healthy pro­duce for NZ fam­i­lies. This ad­vo­cacy oc­curs through HortNZ and prod­uct groups, but it needs the on­go­ing sup­port of grow­ers to make it hap­pen; serv­ing as di­rec­tors, of­fer­ing ad­vice to keep things real, vot­ing for com­mod­ity levies and pro­vid­ing a grower’s view to pol­icy mak­ers – there are im­por­tant roles for all grow­ers.

Sup­ported by you, HortNZ con­tin­ues to build, main­tain and lever­age strong re­la­tion­ships across gov­ern­ment agen­cies in Welling­ton and around the coun­try built on trust and mu­tual re­spect. I’ve strongly ad­vo­cated in­dus­try views but some­times pol­icy, or the law, doesn’t work out for our col­lec­tive po­si­tion. The ad­van­tage of our strong re­la­tion­ships is that we can move past the bumps that oc­cur and achieve more over­all.

This is a long game and I’ve en­joyed work­ing on a broad range of is­sues, be­ing given the space to get things done, and meet­ing lots of amaz­ing peo­ple along the way. I wish my HortNZ col­leagues, and our grow­ers, the very best for a pros­per­ous fu­ture in food pro­duc­tion as I head off to Jakarta with my fam­ily for a new ad­ven­ture.

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