Biosecurity levy voting
Vegetables NZ Inc. (VNZI) will be establishing a separate biosecurity levy, outside of its commodity levy, following a successful grower vote at its annual general meeting in Christchurch.
The biosecurity levy will fund operational agreement activities under the Government Industry Agreement (GIA) for biosecurity readiness and response.
The biosecurity levy will apply to all fresh vegetables grown for sale domestically, or for export in New Zealand and represented by the Vegetables NZ Inc. product group. Other fresh vegetable crops such as potatoes, onions, squash, tomatoes and asparagus are represented by their respective product groups and as such have their own biosecurity levies
After the biosecurity levy is approved by the Ministry for Primary Industries, which may take until early next year, then the levy rate will commence at an initial rate 0.05% until the industry is required to increase its share for biosecurity response costs, where it may be increased up to the maximum of 0.20%. At the minimum 0.05% rate this equates to $200,000 annually based on the VNZI member ‘gate sales’ value of $400 million. If the maximum rate of levy at 0.2% was applied this would accumulate $4m of reserves over five years and this amount was determined to be excessive by the VNZI Board and will now be $2m. VNZI chairman Andre de Bruin says the biosecurity levy allows it to start a funding reserve. “If we get to the ‘cap’ of $2 million we will stop collecting a levy, or if need be the ‘cap’ of $2 million may be reduced or amended at an AGM or special general meeting. As the biosecurity levy is specifically to cover the VNZI share of biosecurity response and readiness it is ringfenced and can’t be used elsewhere.
“But we do have to start it, or we cannot respond”.
“As VNZI represents 52 commercial crops, whatever pests come to New Zealand, are likely to affect crops in our sector and therefore we need to ensure we are covered for type of incursion that would have an impact on those crops, so it is an insurancetype policy. When we have so many vegetable crops within our sector group it is difficult to know where or what the next incursion may happen and its impact.”
VNZI signed its GIA deed in 2016 and has signed operational agreements (OA’s) for fruit fly and brown marmorated stink bug. An application strongly supported by VNZI has been made to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to import, rear and release the samurai wasp to help combat a potential BMSB incursion should that occur. VNZI will keep its commodity levy at its present level (0.3% of the sale value at the first point of sale for domestic sales and 0.2% for export sales). “The VNZI board has put a lot of consideration into the levy setting process to ensure that it is set at a level that we are able to operate effectively, but collect no more than we require.”
“It is imperative that both VNZI and Hort NZ retain their separate levies, says Andre de Bruin. Hort NZ lobbies on national issues that could potentially affect all commercial growers, while VNZI provides significant funding, management and resources for work in relation to vegetable crops. This is particularly important in areas such as research and science support, export market development, fresh vegetable promotional activity, quality assurance, education and training and biosecurity activities”.
VNZI invested $242,000 last year in research projects, with an additional $733,000 from external funders. Through the Vegetables Research and Innovation (VR&I) board, it also invested an additional $185,000 on multi-product group research projects.
Since the last levy referendum, VNZI has invested more than $1.25m,
with an additional $3m in external government funding, enabling the successful completion of more than 30 research projects, including cofunding and support for the successful great white butterfly eradication programme.
Previous and current research projects include:
• Nutrient management for improved vegetable production.
• Brassica pest, natural disease and disorders IPM manual update.
• Fluxmeter use to determine the water uptake of crops.
• Maximising the value of irrigation techniques to reduce cost and wastage.
• Nitrogen quick test module testing.
• Silt and topsoil run-off management.
• Tamarixia trials and release as an alternative to agrichemical controls.
• Cadmium management levels in leafy greens.
• Virus control management in lettuce crops.
• White fly control in covered crops. Research projects presently have a real focus on ensuring that our growers can continue to operate safe, sustainable and effective businesses in an increasingly legislated environment.
Fresh vegetable promotions
VNZI has funded more than $300,000 a year through Vegetables.co.nz for the past six years towards fresh vegetable promotional activities. Vegetables. co.nz develops, sources and provides extensive vegetable promotional material for the retail, educational and health sectors. Andre said that “The highlight this year for Vegetables. co.nz has been the momentum created in the ‘Kids can Cook’ healthy meal programme in intermediate schools. This programme is creating exciting opportunities to teach our future consumers how to use and prepare vegetables. Partnerships with the Heart Foundation and Health Promotion Agency to drive this programme have given it real horse power. Vegetables.co.nz alone would not have been able to achieve this”.
“The next 12 months looks really exciting for this programme. All the ground work has started to come together and we should really start to see the outputs from the programme”.
“The board believes that this promotional investment along with progressive initiatives undertaken by growers underpins the continued growth of our sector.”
VNZI directors John Murphy, of Blenheim, and Mark O’Connor, of Nelson, were re-elected after retiring by rotation.
Stuart Davis had stepped down from VNZI board and as chairman of the VR&I board. Dr Davis is the general manager of Sutherland Produce Ltd in Pukekohe. He was also the Vegetables NZ director responsible for the Leafy Greens Crop Advisory Group (CAG). “Stuart has been a fantastic asset to VNZI and a long-standing servant to our industry. He has committed countless hours of his time, his knowledge and experience. His professional and balanced governance combined with his in-depth research knowledge has made a massive contribution to our industry,” said Andre de Bruin.