As­para­gus grow­ers up­date strat­egy

With a new chair­man at the helm, the con­tin­ued suc­cess of the in­dus­try is first and fore­most.

NZ Grower - - Product Groups -

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

• Com­mu­ni­ca­tion

• 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.

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