Horticulture New Zealand says it is concerned that predicted increases of up to 58% could price vegetables off the table, resulting in preventable and costly strains on the health system of up to $610 million.
‘Our concern is the strain on the health system if vegetables get priced off the average family’s table and New Zealanders’ health declines,’ says HortNZ Deputy Chief Executive, Leanne Stewart, in response to news that the Labour Party is promising an investigation into grocery prices if elected.
‘Land use regulation also needs to be looked at, in addition to grocery prices.
‘Otago University has researched the health consequences of the increase in prices predicted by an earlier Deloitte study of vegetable growing in Pukekohe. Otago University estimates that the cost to the health system of vegetable price increases and subsequent decreases in vegetable consumption could be between $490 million and $610 million.
‘The vegetable price increase estimated by Deloitte is due to challenges, such as urban encroachment and freshwater regulation, that prevent new vegetable growing. The decrease in vegetable production is estimated to correspond to price increases of between 43% and 58% for vegetables.
‘Wouldn’t it be better to ensure that vegetable growing in New Zealand can keep up with a growing population and people’s desire to eat more healthily?’
Ms Stewart says to reverse the decline in vegetable growing, central and regional government need to act as one.
‘Government and councils need to ensure that urban growth does not encroach on productive land but where it does, that vegetable growers can move elsewhere – without costly and unnecessary red tape. Vegetable growers also need to expand to keep up with population growth.
‘Today’s vegetable growers are sophisticated business people and proud environmental stewards. They are engaged in research, adopting new techniques and implementing audited Farm Environment Plans so they can maximise crop production while minimising environmental impact. Growers are improving their systems because it makes economic as well as environmental sense.
‘Recognition of Pukekohe and Levin as important vegetable growing areas in the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management is encouraging for growers. Growers know the food they produce is essential for human health. They just need environmental regulations that recognise this fact too.
‘At the end of the day, all growers want to be able to do is continue to grow to meet demand, while keeping prices sensible and sustainable so New Zealanders can afford fresh, healthy vegetables.’