Building engagement and social licence for vegetable growers

1 December 2021

Antony Heywood: Vegetables New Zedaland Inc general manager

 

At the heart of the Vegetables New Zealand (VNZI) strategy is engaging with growers, our external stakeholders including government, but also a wider public audience.

The VNZI manifesto forms the workplan for the next 12 months. The information shown in the manifesto demonstrates the key issues growers face and what VNZI plans to do to help overcome some of these core issues.

VNZI is active in the work Hort NZ are doing in rolling out the NZGAP (Good Agricultural Practice) Environmental
Management System (EMS) Farm Environment Plan (FEP) modules across the country. The NZGAP EMS will give growers a FEP which will help in meeting freshwater management requirements.

At the HSNO (Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act) parliamentary Select Committee hearing, VNZI
director, Mike Parker, explained the grower implications to the HSNO amendment bill. Mike spoke on the need to ensure growers have access to new, softer chemistry by making registration processes pragmatic and less costly
for all parties.

To facilitate this, VNZI Covered Cropping are promoting a transition pathway where growers can access government support now, at the expense of gaining carbon credits in the future. It is akin to paying it forward, whereby government will be encouraged to fund a transition plan to give confidence to our covered crop industry to invest in their future. VNZI consider this a fundamental factor to sustaining food security our country can count on in any crisis.

VNZI is of the view that New Zealand’s current grocery model also needs to be improved with growers in
mind. Suppliers need an environment where they can negotiate with retailers and wholesalers on equal terms. This environment needs to be transparent and without a power imbalance to the purchaser. VNZI considers the best
mechanism to achieve a transparent system is with a Code of Conduct. While the final framework has not yet been decided, both the United Kingdom Code of Conduct and parts of the Australian Code of Conduct, hold a lot of merit. 

A grower membership organisation needs a functional information system to ensure it remains connected to its membership and to monitor key factors to prove its economic impact. VNZI is reviewing how its grower data needs to be reported. VNZI is currently looking at options to ensure it can deliver a grower mandate of representing its members’ economic, environment, social and cultural information to government and to the public.

Grower information is an important tool facilitating social licence. As we conclude this year, Vegetables New Zealand would like to thank all vegetable growers for their participation in the many virtual forums of 2021. With your help, we feel we have made a difference in how people think about vegetables and ultimately, how people value vegetables. We hope that value will come back to you as growers in 2022 and beyond.