2022 gets underway

18 January 2022

The new year – 2022 – is only just a few weeks old and yet already, our industry is facing challenges – all of which we are actively managing in the best ways possible.   

The tsunami in Tonga is a blow to that country and it will take time for Tonga to recovery.  Our industry’s approach is to support the recovery as well as support the Tongan Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme workers currently in New Zealand.   

If you are an RSE employer with Tongan workers, please click here for advice on how best to support these workers, now and over the coming weeks.

How to donate 

We are using the Growers Relief Fund to collect donations to support Tonga’s recovery. You can donate here 

Summerfruit harvest 

News from Otago is that the harvest is going well but some growers have less than half the staff they’ve had for picking and packing, pre-Covid.   

It’s great to hear how summerfruit growers are doing everything they can to attract, retain and share available staff.   

Back in Wellington, the horticulture industry collective – comprising NZ Apples & Pears, NZ Kiwifruit Growers, Summerfruit NZ, NZ Winegrowers, NZ Ethical Employers, and HortNZ – continues to advocate for policies and financial support to breakdown all barriers to working in our industry – either on a seasonal or permanent basis.   

We are also developing an approach to issues management over the coming months when our industry is going to be under considerable pressure.  As is usual, specific product groups will take the lead here, with support from HortNZ.   

What to pay for fruit and vegetables?     

Christmas and the New Year are known to be slow news times.  However, papers are still published and radio news bulletins still air hourly, which sees items written and run that might not usually see the light of day.   

Stuff’s story on tomato prices on 6 January was in this vein.  However, it did get me thinking again about attitudes to fruit and vegetable prices.   

It is being widely reported that across most industries in New Zealand, the cost of just about everything is increasing, from raw materials to labour to distribution.   

These cost increases are being reflected in the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), which rose by 5.1% in the 12 months to November 2021.  This was the highest CPI 12-month inflation rate since September 2011, when it stood at 5.2%.   

But when it comes to fruit and vegetables, it would seem that most New Zealanders expect a bargain, no matter what time of the year it is.  Just before Christmas, thanks to bad growing weather, it was widely reported that strawberries and other berries would either not be available for the big day or would be ‘expensive’.  Tell that to the growers who are facing ever higher costs and took the risk to grow the berries, which for several late last year, did not pay off.   

Also before Christmas, it was reported that leafy greens like broccoli could be in short supply or ‘expensive’ come February 2022, due to very wet weather in Pukekohe and the Horowhenua preventing cultivation and planting.   

I know that the cost of just about everything is increasing it is a worrying situation for all industries and consumers.  But let’s not have a double standard around healthy, fresh fruit and vegetables, particularly when analysis shows that farm gate returns for growers have not increased for at least a decade.   

If New Zealanders want ready access to locally-grown fresh fruit and vegetables, they must be prepared to pay more for them.  I know this won’t make us popular and it will create stories like the Stuff one on tomato prices.  But growers cannot be expected to shoulder the latest cost increases – in particular wages, compliance and distribution cost increases – without an associated increase in returns.