Opinion: Horticulture NZ looking around the corner

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Opinion: Horticulture NZ looking around the corner

By Horticulture New Zealand president Andrew Fenton

The next 12 months will be an enormous challenge for the horticulture industry as growers battle issues on many fronts. With the Rugby World Cup and the general election well behind us it would be nice to look forward to a period of calm, stable government and solid growth of our economy.

With the combined events of the global economic crisis delivering unparalleled financial turmoil to the U.S. and to the E.U., our small country of green cannot escape some of the fallout. The uncertainty of world monetary policy is testing all forecasters' ability to predict what may happen to our exchange rate and the market appetite for New Zealand export products.

In the world of horticulture there are different and more relative issues but none that are isolated from the global reality of the market place. While we are consumed confronting these challenges we should not forget the financial plight of those we sell produce to, whether they are here in New Zealand or overseas.

Tomato, potato and tamarillo growers are fighting psyllid in crops up and down the country and while there is some respite in some regions the threat to these crops has not gone away. Apples have had some success with access to Australia fighting through the war of biosecurity, but again there has been a huge cost to first movers in the market and a long way to go before the market stabilises and willingly accepts our pipfruit. Global marketing of apples is challenging and the FX going forward will be the architect of grower returns.

Kiwifruit growers have a mountain to climb as the industry struggles for survival amid what some are calling "industry collapse". Will it survive or will it be lost from New Zealand? There is a long way to go but what we can rely on is that the industry will change forever and mutate to something new but how that will look is impossible to tell. The question for us is how many growers will be left?

Domestic fruit and vegetable production continues to be dominated with stronger competition and price pressure from retail as farm margins are squeezed to a point where growers are ploughing in greens and not replanting new season's crops. Enough is enough and it is high time margins were challenged at the store because worldwide the grower is being forced out of business by the greed of fresh produce retailers.

In 2012, Horticulture New Zealand faces its largest challenges yet. The levy that funds the activities that HortNZ carries on behalf of all growers in the country expires and requires a referendum in November to approve continued funding for the next six years. This is critical and there will be no second place. Without a successful vote and without levy funding then the organisation that we have come to know as the horticulture industry lead body will cease to exist.

No one doubts that we need HortNZ. Growers support it, its activities, its representation, its successes and its value delivery especially if you have fought the RMA (Resource Management Act) with HortNZ or benefited from the RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer) scheme.


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