As I swapped a drizzly Nelson morning for the overcast skies of Wellington today, I reflected on the challenges that nature provides us in the horticulture industry – for this summerfruit season the Hawke’s Bay hail storms now followed by a slow, cold and wet start to the cherry season. In what many are describing as the worst start for cherries in a quarter century, we are hoping that the southerly flow ends soon, in particular to enable cherry exports to meet Chinese New Year demand. Whilst we may be feeling down about the weather, our thoughts go out to those affected by fires across the Tasman.
My team and I are highly conscious of the effect this season has on you, and the flow-on effect to the levy and consequent running of Summerfruit NZ. Whilst we will have to make some changes, I intend that there is minimum disruption to what we provide for the industry.
Alasdair MacLeod has drafted the questions for the qualitative interviews that he will conduct across the industry. He will start with those stakeholders not flat out in the harvest and then move on to growers, packers, and exporters as the season winds up. A questionnaire process, for all others who wish to contribute, is being prepared and will be made available within the next few weeks.
As you are aware, Summerfruit NZ – as a biosecurity partner in GIA, has ongoing commitments that preserve our production and market access. Currently we have a sizeable financial commitment to the Northcote fruit fly response, under the Fruit Fly Council. This long-standing programme has been crucial in preserving market access to some of our most important markets, despite several incursions in recent years. The counterpoint is the Tasmanian Fruit Fly experience of January 2018, which saw many markets shut down Tasmanian horticultural exports for over twelve months, impacting two seasons.
I am quickly coming to understand the complexities of the apricot development programme and the commercialisation options. My team, and the Apricot Co Interim Board, are committed to finding a viable mechanism to commercialise these new apricot varieties including field days this season to improve grower knowledge and enable informed decisions. There is some significant work to be done and many complex matters to be addressed. I would welcome your views on any opportunities or risks you see in the commercialisation process.