What our industry can achieve
1 June 2022
Zespri’s record-breaking result for last season shows just what our industry can achieve, with long term strategy, focus and investment, as well as favourable growing and harvesting conditions.
Our country’s kiwifruit industry has long been the poster child for New Zealand’s horticulture industry. But kiwifruit’s success did not happen by luck and neither did it happen overnight.
I am involved in industry and government discussions aimed at unlocking potential and making sure our industry meets its 2030 target of doubling the farmgate value of horticultural production from $6bn to $12bn, and improving grower margins.
There is a tension in these discussions. The world has changed considerably since the forerunner to Zespri, the New Zealand Kiwifruit Marketing Board, first started exporting in 1988. Do we try and find another single success story like kiwifruit or do we try and bolster the entire New Zealand horticulture industry? Or do we do both?!
Either way, we must make some decisions and get on with it, given the amount of time – and money – that research and development, and eventual commercialisation, take.
However, the way research and development are currently funded by the Government means that it is impossible for the smaller parts of our industry to afford to co-fund their own research and development. This is because, in nearly all cases, the industry needs to come up with half the funding to match the Government’s other half of the funding.
What if this funding model was different and somehow, the smaller parts of our horticulture industry could loan money from the Government, much like the student loan system? For the smallest parts of our industry, a little investment could go a long way to unlocking unrealised potential.
At the same time, the Government needs to do something about the roadblocks it creates, which hold our industry back. For example, we need far faster approval of modern crop protection products in New Zealand than we currently have, particularly as the newer products are better for the environment and people than the older ones. In most cases, the newer products have already been approved for use overseas. Why should their use in New Zealand be any different?
The challenges of climate change are with us. Responding to climate change is another area where industry and government need to focus and make decisions, otherwise New Zealand will be entirely in catchup mode and our competitive advantage will be fundamentally eroded.
Young Grower of the Year
The regional finals of the Young Grower of the Year are underway. I was fortunate to be able to attend the Hawkes Bay final last week. I was really impressed by the speeches of the contestants, in a room of over 300 people they all embraced the challenge, and I did not envy the judges their task.
To have talented young people eager to make a difference through a career in horticulture is heartening for our industry. They are an incredible asset for our industry to have, therefore it is imperative that today’s industry leaders – those of you reading this update – nurture the asset, and focus on and make decisions that take our industry successfully to 2030 and beyond.