Fruit, vege growers set to vote on commodity levy

Workers at a packhouse in Ettrick process apples. Horticulture New Zealand is consulting on retention of the Commodity Levy Order and voting papers will be sent out early next month. Photo :Yvonne O'Hara
Workers at a packhouse in Ettrick process apples. Horticulture New Zealand is consulting on retention of the Commodity Levy Order and voting papers will be sent out early next month. Photo :Yvonne O'Hara
Horticulture growers are being consulted about their support for the continuation of a levy to fund industry body Horticulture New Zealand and its work.

Voting papers will be sent out on July 2 and voting closes on August 13. The result will be announced by August 20.

If more than 50% of growers vote in favour, both in number and in sales value, an application will then be made to the Ministry for Primary Industries for a new Commodity Levy Order, which, if approved, will come into effect on April 1, 2019.

The current Commodity Levy Order will expire in May 2019.

There is to be no change to the maximum levy rate, which is 15c per $100 of sales, although the current rate is 14c per $100 of sales.

HortNZ president and chairman of directors Julian Raine said even though the levy would remain at 14c, the total take would increase, thanks to increased sales.

He said HortNZ would receive about $4.8 million, if growers voted to continue with the levy.

''As horticulture gains more value, our take goes up,'' Mr Raine said.

He said the levy take was used to perform HortNZ's functions and provide value to its growers.

''We prioritise and use our money wisely,'' he said.

The levy money is spent on grower representation, advocacy and communication with growers.

It covers research, development, marketing, biosecurity, retention, recruitment and training of staff, lobbying for access to land and water, seasonal labour and making submissions to local, regional and central government.

This year it was responsible for increasing the number of places on the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme by 600 to 11,100.

Mr Raine said during his time with HortNZ one thing he was particularly proud of was the organisation's connection with the growers, something they were doing better than they used to.

Biosecurity was also a key issue.

''We got tickled with fruit flies in New Zealand and they were eradicated,'' he said.

''We have also under constant siege by the brown marmot bug, which is an awful insect.

''We don't want it to get established here.''

HortNZ has put about 200 people through leadership programmes and gives out about 20 scholarships a year.

HortNZ campaigned to introduce Country of Origin Labelling, which passed its first reading in 2017 and has been through a select committee.

HortNZ also raises awareness of the importance of horticulture to New Zealand, for its economic value, and to the community through employment, and to people's lives by growing fresh food at affordable prices.

Mr Raine said during the last levy vote in 2013, voter turnout was low, although they made it past the 50% line both by numbers and by value.

''We want to see as many people voting as possible,'' he said.

-By Yvonne O'Hara

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