NZ: 'stormy' growers meeting confronts kiwifruit disease issues

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NZ: 'stormy' growers meeting confronts kiwifruit disease issues

Around half the attendees at a New Zealand kiwifruit growers meeting yesterday voted the government should acknowledge the Psa-V disease incursion is the biggest agricultural disaster the country has ever faced.

Meeting organizer and grower Rob Thode told there were 145 people who voted at the event in Te Puke, amid "stormy" discussions over the state of the industry and its structure.

He said the main issues touched on in the meeting were the functioning of New Zealand's three main biosecurity bodies, whether the Psa-V incursion warranted an emergency declaration and if growers should be compensated, and whether Zespri and the country's kiwifruit marketing structure were as good as they could be.

The meeting ballot showed 63.4% agreed that the goverment should acknowledge that Psa-V was a biosecurity failure, while 43.5% urged that the government admit responsibility for letting the disease into the country and provide growers with appropriate compensation; on the second issue, 13.1% abstained from voting.

"The case of Psa-V has had a more severe impact on production than a drought or a flood in the sense that you can't recover what you have lost; it may be different but it is still a disaster and it still merits compensation from the government," said Thode.

50.3% voted yes that "Kiwifruit Growers demand that the Government acknowledge that the PSA-V incursion is New Zealand’s biggest ever Agricultural Disaster and immediately declare this an Adverse Event", while this statement yielded the highest abstention rate at 13.8%.

The most overwhelming support was for an "immediate Commission of Inquiry into the PSA-V incursion and New Zealand’s Biosecurity" with 69.7% in favor.

Dissent against kiwifruit marketer Zespri was only slightly higher (45.5%) than those in favor of the company's practices (44.1%), in regards to the following statement:

"That Kiwifruit Growers find unacceptable; Zespri’s failure to deliver a fair return to growers, Zespri’s huge failures in the Korean and Chinese Markets, and Zespri’s failure to properly manage its licensed varieties."

But more than half (51.7%) the growers present voted against a full enquiry into Zespri and the structure of the kiwifruit industry, with 40.7% in favor.

Photo: Nathan Balasingham

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