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HortNZ backs review of approval process for new agricultural and horticultural products

Horticulture New Zealand (HortNZ) welcomes the announcement that the Ministry for Regulation will review the complex approval processes for new agricultural and horticultural products under the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and New Zealand Food Safety (NZFS).

"Attaining regulatory approval to register a new product in New Zealand takes an excessively long time and is very costly," says Michelle Sands, Manager Strategy and Policy at HortNZ.

"The EPA is currently responsible for a significant backlog of applications stuck in the regulatory process for new products designed to control pests and diseases in the most sustainable ways. A recent Sapere review estimated that if the EPA were to put all their resources to work processing the applications already in the queue, it would still take at least 2-4 years to clear this backlog.

"HortNZ is concerned that the approaches the EPA and NZFS are taking to reassessments is leaving the horticulture sector with fewer options to manage risks in an increasingly risky environment.

"New Zealand growers are actively working to lessen the use of agrichemicals. Ironically, the complex regulatory approval processes and EPA's backlog of applications are preventing growers from accessing products that are more environmentally friendly and sustainable with lesser impacts on the environment.

"The horticulture sector is front-footing initiatives to reduce use of chemical sprays through the A Lighter Touch (ALT) programme. This is funding extensive demonstrations with the aim of transitioning from agrichemical pest management to agro-ecological crop protection."

Horticulture New Zealand holds the contract with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to deliver this programme, which is a partnership between horticulture product groups, the arable, and viticulture sectors. The programme partners are contributing $16 million to the programme, with $11 million coming from MPI.

Crop protection products are vital to horticulture production, says Sands. "For example, without crop protection products, horticulture would lose 75 per cent of the value of its crops. Vegetable growers would incur losses of about 88 per cent of the value of vegetable crops - 80 per cent of vegetables in New Zealand are grown for domestic supply. New Zealanders food security, as well as our economy, is dependent on the new product regulatory system working well.

"To manage that risk, we need to ensure regulatory interpretations of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act and the Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Act are not creating barriers to horticulture's success. These Acts need to enable growers access to new tools so they can produce healthy fruit and vegetables for New Zealanders and achieve the Government's vision of doubling exports."

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