International Year of Plant Health

20 Feb 2020 International Year of Plant Health image

Mike at the International Year of Plant Health launch at Parliament on 18 February 

The United Nations has declared 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health to raise awareness about protecting plant health.  But it is not just plant health that is important because plant health is an enabler to:

  • End hunger
  • Reduce poverty
  • Protect the environment
  • Boost economic development. 

 

As such, plant health is directly applicable to what we do and how we grow fruit, berries and vegetables in New Zealand.  It is about the whole community and strengthening that community: manaakitanga. Healthy plants, people, environment and communities.

A year of activities is planned around the International Year of Plant Health.  But for horticulture, it really involves doing what we now do well as we move to manage climate change and improve water quality. 

Vegetables.co.nz is part of a consortium that has created modules on vegetable cooking as part of intermediate schools’ cooking curriculum.  This is so that future generations have the know-how to prepare and eat healthy food.  5+ A Day provides fresh fruit and vegetables daily to 553 schools whose pupils most need this sustenance.  Both these programmes are backed up by extensive resources.

New Zealand and the world’s eating habits are progressively changing, with more vegetables, berries and fruit being included in diets.  The health benefits of plant-based diets are being embraced as a way to improve health and reduce dependence on medical care.

We are working with the Government to protect our highly productive land from housing and put in place a regime so that fresh vegetables can continue to be grown in New Zealand.  We are in partnership with the rest of the food and fibre sector and the Government to make the changes necessary for climate change mitigation.  We have proposed, again with the rest of the food and fibre sector, that to make sustainable and long-term improvements to water quality, we need to expand the climate change partnership to include water and bring to the partnership table, regional councils.

We are advocating that New Zealand should create a food supply or food security, policy and programme to ensure that we can continue to feed our country and earn valuable export dollars.  This policy needs to focus on ensuring we have the infrastructure needed to ensure we can continue to grow through increasingly adverse weather and the droughts that climate change is imposing on our country.  The policy will also require a holistic assessment of what we can grow and where we can grow it. 

The Government’s role will be to provide much-needed infrastructure in ideal growing areas.  This is primarily water storage, roading, access to ports, high speed internet and most importantly, a regulatory regime that enables the growing of healthy food.

The International Year of Plant Health is turning attention to the importance of plants to humans and the planet.  It is also turning attention to what we need to do to ensure that our plants, people and environment stay healthy.  Now is the time of the plant. 

Mike Chapman, Chief Executive