Perfect storm brewing for fruit and vegetable supply

02 Nov 2017

A perfect storm is brewing for New Zealand’s supply of healthy fresh fruit and vegetables that could see us unable to feed our growing population with domestically grown produce, a report from Horticulture New Zealand says.

In releasing the report, New Zealand domestic vegetable production: the growing story, Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says it is time to take stock and 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. This report looks at the factors that will impact 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," Chapman says.

"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 the supply and, consequently, the price of fresh, healthy food.

"Things are changing fast, so we need to look closely at our domestic food supply and be sure that town, city and regional planning decisions are seen in the context of impacting the whole of New Zealand’s food supply."

The report looks at domestic vegetable supply, particularly of what would be considered staple vegetables, to examine all the factors that go into getting these vegetables from the field to the plate. It examines the challenges to supply, through to what is driving demand and price.

"Information and evidence are required to enable good decisions about New Zealand’s domestic food supply and we are keen to engage the new Government with our call for a national food security strategy," Chapman says.

"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 life-style blocks on horticulture, emerging technology and the emphasis on sustainability.

"This report doesn’t answer all the questions. It provides a snapshot of domestic vegetable production to start the conversation about food security in New Zealand and is part of a body of research we have planned to ensure food security is taken seriously," Chapman says.

The report is available here.