Horticulture New Zealand says the findings of a Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) survey of the horticulture sector confirm that horticulture can fully support New Zealand’s post-Covid recovery.
‘The BNZ’s survey found that horticulture has higher levels of optimism about the future - 71% of the sector were optimistic - compared to the rest of the agriculture industry, at 58% optimism,’ says HortNZ Chief Executive, Mike Chapman.
‘This finding supports what we have been seeing. Growers who are keen to get back the post-COVID recovery and provide displaced New Zealand with jobs but who, like the BNZ survey also noted, are wary. They are wary about the possible impact of central and local government decisions around freshwater, land use, labour availability, and education and training.
‘Our sector is finalising its Covid recovery plans. We want to work in partnership with central and local government to achieve common goals. Growers have a wealth of practical experience when it comes to land and freshwater management, and have been reducing their environmental impact for many years.
‘Also, for many years, growers have been pointing out that access to labour has been a handbrake on growth. While it is good news that many New Zealanders may want a new career in horticulture, those people will need training, and several will need support to relocate and adjust to different working conditions.’
HortNZ says there will still be a reliance on the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme to enable horticulture to grow and employ more New Zealanders on a permanent basis.
HortNZ agrees with the other key finding of the BNZ survey: that worldwide demand for New Zealand-grown fruit and vegetables will increase long-term, as people place increasing value on fresh, healthy food.
‘Our fruit and vegetables are grown to the highest possible standard and with complete transparency,’ says Mike. ‘This gives consumers in New Zealand and across the world absolute confidence, for which they are prepared to pay a premium while enjoying the second-to-none quality of the produce.
‘This gives the New Zealand horticulture industry at a distinct competitive advantage. That’s what the BNZ has highlighted, which is all down to growers, and their faith and investment over the decades.
‘What our industry needs now is to work in partnership with the Government on the next decade, and beyond.’