Feb 05 2019

February Monthly Update

Tomato rootstock seed imports resume.

Tomato rootstock seed imports came to a halt in spring when MPI was notified that a hybrid rootstock seed parent species was not on their allowed imports list (the Plant Biosecurity Index or PBI).

We agreed with MPI’s assessment that the hybrid did not pose a risk to NZ’s biosecurity, as the hybrid rootstock had been used in NZ for many years or even decades, and its exclusion from the PBI list was likely an oversight.

Fortunately, and thanks to prudent management by the seed supplier De Ruiter, there was enough of the rootstock seed on hand in NZ to see the industry through for a few months.

Before imports could resume, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) needed to decide whether the species was present in NZ prior to the 1998 HASNO Act.  We worked with the EPA and the seed company to show that it had been present for a long time.  

On the 14th December 2018 the EPA issued its decision that the species was not “new to New Zealand”.

To get imports moving again the MPI Plant Imports Group prioritised adding the hybrid to the PBI and getting the paperwork in place for imports to resume as soon as possible, as by that time the seed supplies had run out. That process was completed on the 21st December and the all-clear given for imports to resume.

Although this situation was unfortunate, it was very pleasing to have the support of MPI, the EPA and the seed company, who all worked to get the issue resolved as quickly as possible and avert a crisis that could have seen NZ growers without access to rootstock this year.

New Co-Opted board member

In December the TomatoesNZ Board was pleased to appoint Greg Prendergast, Head Grower at T&G Global, as a co-opted board member replacing Anthony Stone who is no longer with T&G’s. 

Greg has been with T&G’s for four years, based in Tuakau, Auckland. He is from a horticultural family and has been growing tomatoes, flowers and berries in high tech greenhouses throughout his career. 

At a recent board meeting, TomatoesNZ Chair Barry O’Neil thanked Anthony for his considerable contribution to both the TomatoesNZ board and the industry.

Emissions Trading Scheme announcements

Late last year the government announced the first “tranche” of decisions to come from the 2018 ETS review (which TomatoesNZ submitted on in September). Unfortunately the announcement does not bring good news for greenhouse growers.

Key features:

•        Removal of the ETS “Fixed Price Option” (FPO), i.e. the ability to purchase ETS units for a fixed price of $25 from the government, after 2019. The Fixed Price Option effectively set a maximum price on the units.

•        The Fixed Price Option will be replaced with an ETS “Cost Containment Reserve” (CCR). We disagreed with this approach in our submission as it will substantially reduce price certainty.

•        Auctioning of ETS units is to be introduced. The number of units supplied into the auction will depend on how NZ is going with meeting its Paris Agreement emissions reductions targets.

•        Re-opening the ETS market to international unit trading, but not yet. 

•        Developing a mechanism/framework to make ETS unit supply decisions over a five year rolling period (to provide some certainty).

•        Investigating implementation a “price floor” (i.e. minimum ETS unit price).

 

Decisions are expected early in 2019 on:

•        the use of the proceeds from auctions

•        a potential price floor

•        how decisions to phase down industrial allocation should be made.

Any decisions on industrial allocations will impact tomato (and capsicum and cucumber) growers, who are entitled to claim “free units” under the industrial allocation scheme.

In our submission last year we strongly advocated for retaining free unit allocations for covered vegetable crops until there is a viable alternative heating technology available for growers throughout New Zealand. As an Emissions Intensive Trade Exposed industry, the industry cannot pass on the additional costs of production due to the ETS, and there are is a lack of suitable and cost effective heating alternatives to coal and gas.  To read more on our submission please click here.  

If you’re interested in being part of a working group on climate change and emissions in the covered crops sector please contact Karen Orr on 04-494 9984 or karen.orr@hortnz.co.nz.