Launch of Horticulture New Zealand

  • Jim Anderton

Launch of Horticulture NZ

5.45pm Wednesday 30 November 2005
National Library


Hort New Zealand President, Andrew Fenton - congratulations on your election

And Chief Executive, Peter Silcock

Previous Chair of VegFed, Brian Garguilo

I'd also like to acknowledge recently retired President of NZ Fruitgrowers, Martin Clements who can not be here today

And I acknowledge the Board members for their commitment and vision in driving the establishment process for Hort NZ

Ladies and gentlemen.

I am delighted to be here today.

The formation of Horticulture New Zealand from the NZ Fruitgrowers Federation, the NZ Vegetable and Potato Growers Federation and NZ Berryfruit Federation, is an exciting development.

Horticulture is an important industry to New Zealand. I may be new to the job of Agriculture Minister, but I do know that!

Horticulture plays an important part in the lives of all New Zealanders - what is our roast lamb dinner, without the roast potatoes? What is Christmas without strawberries, apricots, raspberries, and other seasonal fruit?

As well as playing an important part of our social lifestyles, however, horticulture plays a hugely significant role in our economic life as well.

I know there has been some feeling among our primary sector, land and sea-based industries that the New Zealand public may not recognize their importance, horticulture included.

I can assure you that the Government has high regard for the primary sector. Indeed, that’s partly why the Prime Minister chose me to be Agriculture Minister, as the third-ranked minister in Cabinet. The previous minister was number 7, which is frontbench too, but perhaps I’m not as shy and retiring as Mr Sutton.

You don’t have to be a rural-based MP to recognize that New Zealand’s primary sector industries provide approximately 2/3rds of New Zealand’s exports of goods, and agricultural and horticultural industries combined, contribute over half of New Zealand's total export earnings.

Indeed, within the domestic market, the figures are also significant. Household spending on fresh vegetables is $623 million a year on processed vegetables it is $100 million a year and that doesn't include spending on fruit.

The horticulture industry contribution to the New Zealand's economy is about $4.7 billion a year, including $2.2 billion of export earnings.

On top of that, there are more than 7,000 commercial fruit, berry, and vegetable growers, together with the 50,000 workers in permanent and seasonal employment, including those in various processing industries.

Let us be very clear about this fact. Primary industries are the main drivers of New Zealand’s economic well-being.

It is the primary industries that have generated the most impressive productivity gains over the past decade. Between 1990 and 2004 growth in agriculture, horticulture, forestry, and related industries averaged productivity growth of 2.8% per annum, compared to 1.1% in other manufacturing industries.

Contrary to the perceptions of some New Zealanders, these, the sectors have, over the last fifteen years, increased their proportional as well as absolute contribution to the New Zealand economy. From 1986 to 2002 the contribution of agribusiness to New Zealand’s economy rose from 14.2% to an estimated 16.5% of GDP.

Given the small size of the New Zealand population and economy, New Zealand will always struggle to achieve global scale in our businesses.

It is only in the primary industries that we find anything approaching global scale.

And this is achieved only by exporting the majority of what we produce around 95% of our dairy production, over 80% of our meat production, and similar proportions of our key horticulture and fish products.

New Zealand’s social and economic wellbeing requires that the primary production sectors continually seek productivity gains and ultimately increase value from their production.

Let's be crystal clear. New Zealand will not be able to provide first world health or education systems, let alone first world infrastructure or even a first world environment, without a first world economy.

Our primary production industries hold the key to New Zealand's ambition to be in the top half of OECD nations.

Horticulture exports continue to contribute in excess of NZ$2 billion per annum to New Zealand’s export earnings. Kiwifruit and apples account for $1 billion and the remainder includes a range of niche products for some niche markets.

We have examples of some very innovative marketing, branding and product development by this sector. For instance, Zespri is a very strong brand in our key markets and the kiwigold variety is an innovative product, which is turning a commodity into a high, added value consumer item ($10 each at a Tokyo Supermarket shelf!)

New Zealand’s heavy dependence on international trade is the reason that the Government is making significant commitment to trade negotiations and biosecurity protection. It is also important for New Zealand to contribute to significant international initiatives to be able to 'punch above our weight', and therefore New Zealand’s participation in such initiatives as like climate change is important.

And that’s where you and Horticulture NZ come in.

In recent times, we have seen some sectors of the fruit and vegetable industry face major challenges, such as the Manawatu and Gisborne floods, price and marketing issues facing the pipfruit growers, onion growers meeting EU import requirements, and so on.

Some of these challenges require a coordinated industry response, and a body like Horticulture New Zealand has a useful and critical role to play. This requires an effective partnership within the industry, and that will assist to build an effective partnership with the Government.

Your industry has a long proud history.

The NZ Fruitgrowers Federation was formed in 1916, 89 years ago, while the Vegetable and Potato Growers Federation was formed in 1957, only 48 years ago!

Fruitfed represents 3,600 growers, with 10 affiliated product groups, including Avocados, Citrus, Feijoas, Kiwifruit, Nashi, Passionfruit, Persimmons, Pipfruit, Summerfruit and Tamarillos. It has a closer working relationship and shares a Chief Executive and offices with New Zealand Vegetable & Potato Growers Federation (or Vegfed).

Vegfed, represents 2,600 commercial growers, and has seven sector groups: Fresh Vegetables, Process Vegetables, Potato, Fresh Tomato, Export Squash, Asparagus and Process Tomato.

Vegfed has a close working relationship agreement with New Zealand Fruitgrowers Federation, including sharing a chief executive, Peter Silcock. He seems to be a master at multitasking, as his organizations have been doing the work of the Berryfruit Growers Federation, as well.

Today, we celebrate the formal merging of these historic bodies to form Horticulture New Zealand.

It’s a move to be celebrated.

The critical mass you have now achieved will add to the weight of influence you carry in New Zealand and internationally, and will increase your mana and standing generally.

It is also a sensible move by all industry groups to combine limited resources into one larger entity to achieve efficiency and effectiveness. I know that growers, like other businesspeople, appreciate greater efficiency and effectiveness.

Speaking personally, I would like to say that as a minister it is more efficient and efficient to deal with the representatives of one industry organization, especially when we are working on issues that affect the whole industry.

And we’ve already had numerous examples of this: the work done on easing seasonal labour shortages, for example, not to mention the work yet to be done on the issue of adverse weather event risk management.

Ladies and Gentlemen: in closing, I would like to congratulate this industry for coming together to form Horticulture New Zealand. I think it’s a great step, and one that will do a lot for the respect and influence you have, as one of our most significant export industry sectors.

I look forward to having a great deal more to do with you all.

It gives me great pleasure to declare Horticulture New Zealand officially launched.