Future supply of NZ fruit, vegetables in jeopardy

Federated Farmers arable industry group chairman Guy Wigley. Photos: File
Federated Farmers arable industry group chairman Guy Wigley. Photos: File
Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman
Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman

New Zealand may be unable to feed its growing population with domestically grown fruit and vegetables in the future, a report shows.

Releasing the document ''New Zealand domestic vegetable production: the growing story'' on Thursday, Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman said it was time to develop a national food security strategy.

''Our research shows that New Zealanders not only want to know where their fruit and vegetables come from, they want to buy New Zealand-grown,'' he said.

''This report looks at the factors that will impact [on] security of supply. Our current consumption levels of fresh produce show that net production is already below what is required for domestic consumption, meaning we can expect food shortages if we can't get that balance of supply from imports.

''Prime fruit- and vegetable-growing land is being squeezed by rapid growth in towns and cities and high demand for new housing.

''Changes in weather patterns and extreme unseasonal weather events are becoming more frequent and damaging, impacting [on] the supply and, consequently, the price, of fresh, healthy food.''

Mr Chapman said town, city, and regional planning decisions should be made in the context of their impact on the country's food supply.

Horticulture New Zealand was keen to discuss its call for a national food security strategy with the new government.

''Domestic supply is not being viewed as a national system, with identified strengths and weaknesses, to give New Zealanders continued access to all the fresh fruit and vegetables they need in the future. Local, district and regional decision-making doesn't look beyond its borders.

''While this is appropriate in the context of their planning, consideration is not given to national food supply when land is zoned for housing, or when water is allocated.

''We need to future-proof the resources required to supply food to our growing population, and this report looks at this with the backdrop of global megatrends, including rapidly changing consumer demands, growing populations, urbanisation and the impact of lifestyle blocks on horticulture, emerging technology and the emphasis on sustainability.''

Federated Farmers arable industry group chairman Guy Wigley, who farms at Hook in South Canterbury, said the federation would be ''very interested to participate'' in any national discussions on the issue.

Availability of land for food production was ''a perennial problem around the planet'', Mr Wigley said.

Historically, in New Zealand houses were built on quarter-acre sections that gave residents plenty of room to grow their own fruit and vegetables, he said. However, now most people did not do so and expected their produce to come pre-washed from the supermarket.

Local councils had started to address some of the concerns about encroaching on farmland. Some placed restrictions on the size of blocks available in subdivisions, to ensure ''they can still be productive lifestyle blocks'', Mr Wigley said.

As a nation we needed to be careful if there was truly a shortage of suitable land on which to build the houses needed for our population, he said.

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