Climate change might bring bananas to New Zealand

According to the CEO of Horticulture New Zealand, Mike Chapman, bananas might one day be a staple crop grown in this country. He added that meeting climate and environmental change was the number one challenge facing growers and farmers, not seeing it as a problem, but as an opportunity.

Chapman was among others starting to take a comprehensive look at planning for which crops might disappear, and which might thrive under a changing climate. "There could be a real opportunity for New Zealand to establish a clean banana programme, growing bananas for New Zealand and the world, as a premium product. There is enormous potential out there."

Chief executive Kerensa Johnston said questions about how to adapt to environmental changes topped their list of priorities. "We've spent quite a lot of time over the past 10 years developing our inter-generational plan - Te Pae Tawhiti that looks forward 500 years. We have to adapt and solve this issue of climate change as far as we are able in our generation, to make sure that we're here for our future generations."

Ms Johnston said countries like Peru were already transitioning their crops, and planting at different altitudes as glaciers retreated and soils got warmer. She has recently been on a cultural exchange with indigenous communities there, which viewed climate change as an illness afflicting the earth.

"We went to see them because we're interested to see how they're studying the impact in their communities, and then the practices that they're adapting in order to deal with the changes that are coming. That was hugely inspiring for us as an organisation and a community.”

Horti: $60 billion industry annually 
The net worth of New Zealand's horticulture industry is about $60 billion annually. Mike Chapman said crops took up about 120,000 hectares of the 16 million hectares farmed in this country. He said climate change would force a re-think around land use and it was a conversation he wanted the government to lead.

Horticulture New Zealand was working on a proposal to seek funding for a five-year research project aimed at developing a tool to map areas best suited to certain crops.

"There's nowhere you can get an authoritative and robust assessment on what you might do with your bit of land. That extends to land that might not be used for horticulture at the moment."


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