Group calls for food security policy

Horticulture New Zealand is advocating for a food security policy to balance the needs of rapidly growing urban areas, with the ''food bowls'' on their outskirts.

The organisation has launched its election manifesto outlining five key priorities for the new Government - biosecurity, food security, workforce capability, mandatory country of origin labelling, and healthy eating education.

In a statement, chief executive Mike Chapman said there were a host of challenges to the country's food supply.

They included urban encroachment on growing land, ''emotional'' battles over water, changing weather patterns, access to enough people to grow and harvest food, and increasing border traffic, meaning more potential biosecurity risks.

Horticulture was a $5.6 billion industry, made up of $3.4 billion fruit and vegetable exports to 124 countries, while New Zealanders ate $2.2 billion worth.

There were 5500 commercial fruit and vegetable growers farming 127,160ha and providing 60,000 jobs.

In the manifesto, Horticulture New Zealand said the country's most valuable growing land was under threat from housing.

''While we understand New Zealand's growing population needs houses and that the fastest growing population is in Auckland, we want Government to pause and think 'how are we going to feed the people in those houses?'

''The less growing land and the further away it is, the more expensive healthy food becomes,'' it said.

Decisions made by local government about land and water use in one area could impact food supply for the whole country, as well as exports.

Biosecurity was consistently listed as the number one concern for growers; a devastating pest or disease could have an ''enormous'' impact on both individual businesses, families, communities, food supply and New Zealand's economic wellbeing.

That had been seen with Psa, which ravaged Bay of Plenty kiwifruit orchards in 2010 and was still costing growers.

Government partnership and commitment for both appropriate border control and preparedness for potential incursions was needed.

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