Asparagus growers update strategy
With a new chairman at the helm, the continued success of the industry is first and foremost.
There was strong attendance at this year’s New Zealand Asparagus Council’s annual meeting and conference held in Wellington during August, with over 25 people attending.
The day kicked off with an early morning to visit to MG Marketing’s operation at Grenada North, located close to the highway north of the city. Jade Reeves, branch manager of the Grenada North site, showed the group around the operation which stores and distributes fruit and vegetables to lower North Island retailers. Gone are the days of auctioning off the fruit and vegetables “live” on site, but a flower auction is still held with buyers bidding in a Dutch auction using tablets. It smelt and looked fantastic, though best avoided on Valentine’s Day we hear.
Another highlight was the banana ripening rooms where bananas are ripened to the buyers required level of ripeness using ethylene and a steady 17 degrees C under the care of the friendly ripening manager (who doesn’t eat bananas) and his team.
Following the tour, Roger Georgieff, MG Marketing’s national procurement manager, gave an informative presentation on the New Zealand retail market. He talked about the growth of supermarket chains and progress of retailers with training their staff in fresh food to drive consumption and ensure quality, emphasising that retailers are now actively looking at growers to be good employers, as well as provide quality produce.
MG’s also hosted the annual meeting. In his chairman’s address Tony Rickman spoke about the successful commodity levy application which came into effect on July 22 and plans for the future to benefit all asparagus growers including new promotional work and nutrient foot printing research. Tony has stepped down from the role of chair and took the
opportunity to thank the council executive for their hard work and time supporting asparagus growers and welcomed Mike Arnold as the new chair.
Mike, from Leaderbrand South Island, embraced the challenge of stepping into the role by leading a strategy workshop. He grew up in Gisborne and moved to Christchurch to set up the South Island branch of Leaderbrand where he is general manager. As well as being chairperson of the Horticulture Canterbury Growers Association he’s former director of Horticulture New Zealand. He admits he’s relatively new to growing asparagus, having grown it now for six years, but he’s quick to point out the vast experience available within the council’s members and praised their strengths.
Mike worked through next steps for the council in updating their strategy, focusing on actions in four key areas;
• Research and development
• Asparagus voice
• Marketing and promotion.
After the meeting attendees returned to the Horticulture New Zealand offices for presentations from Market Access Solutionz, Worksafe, and HortNZ’s chief executive, Mike Chapman.
As a small sector with 39 commercial growers the annual conference is a valuable chance for the members of the asparagus industry to get together to talk about ideas and ways to ensure the continued success of the sector. All asparagus-growing regions as well as the seed suppliers and post-harvest sector were represented, and this allowed them to discuss priorities for the industry going forward.
Next year’s conference and annual meeting will be held during HortNZ’s conference at Mystery Creek in Hamilton from July 31 to August 2. It promises to be a hands-on event with something for everyone so pencil in the dates now and don’t miss out.