Sep 15 2018

Monthly Update September 2018

Fresh Tomato Commodity Levy supported

A new commodity levy to replace that expiring next year was supported in the referendum held in August, with 87.50% by number and 86.50% by value of those that voted supporting the fresh tomato commodity levy proposal.

The Horticulture New Zealand and other vegetable product group referendums were also successful.

Many thanks if you were one of the 33% of fresh tomato growers that cast your vote.

Next we will submit an application to the Ministry for Primary Industries, who will take our request for the new levy to the Minister for approval. The new levy order is expected to be in place from April 2019.

Under the new levy order, the fresh tomato levy rate will initially remain the same at 0.35%. The new levy order will include the capacity for growers to vote at an Annual General Meeting to raise the rate up to a maximum of 0.50%.

Surge in irradiated Australian tomato imports

Low domestic supply in early August, along with low prices in Australia, has seen a considerable volume of Australian irradiated tomatoes being bought in.

These must be identified as “irradiated” at point of sale, although as there’s been few imports in the last couple of years, some retailers may have forgotten this requirement.  We have asked MPI to investigate several reports of failure to comply.

Government consulting on carbon emissions

The focus on carbon emissions has ramped up this year.  With Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) costs expected to continue rising, TomatoesNZ has been telling anyone who will listen including the Productivity Commission, MfE, and EECA about the challenges faced by covered crops growers with heating, including increasing ETS bills and a lack of viable alternatives to coal and gas. This year we have already contributed to submissions on the Productivity Commission’s Low-emissions Economy inquiry, and the Zero Carbon Bill.

Currently the government is consulting on changes to the ETS scheme (submissions close 21st September). The consultation is on “improvements” to the ETS framework; and a second set of consultation relating to forestry. We will be submitting on the former. The key areas of consultation are:

  • Phase down of industrial allocations, post 2021. Fresh tomato, capsicum and cucumber growers are currently eligible for free NZ ETS Units, which offset some of the ETS cost for industries that cannot recoup those costs from consumers and whose international competitors do not face carbon costs  - i.e. they are considered to be “Emissions Intensive and Trade Exposed” industries.  Government is seeking comment on beginning a phase down of the allocations scheme.    The likely phase down rate is 1-3% per year.
  • A new “price ceiling”. Currently there is a $25 per unit “fixed price option” for NZ ETS Units.  This effectively limits the maximum price of NZ Units, because anyone can buy units from the government for $25. The proposal is to replace that with a “cost containment reserve” (CCR), where units held in reserve are auctioned (as part of a new auctioning system) once the price ceiling is reached.  The government expects the price ceiling would initially be $25, rising over time.
  • A new auctioning system for NZ ETS units is to be implemented, and the government is seeking feedback on its features. It is proposed that all NZ Emissions Trading Register account holders will be eligible to participate in auctions – if you have ever applied for the free NZ ETS units for your tomato production, this will include you.
  • Currently there is no trading of international units within the NZ ETS. In the future international units could again be made available to NZ ETS participants, with limits. Those limits are being consulted on.
  • A new annual process for setting NZ ETS unit supply volumes over a five-year rolling period. There will be a cap on the supply of units, and the government wants to know what factors should be considered when setting volume limits.
  • Also feedback is being sought on some aspects of governance and information provision, compliance and penalties.

EPA hearing for Luna

In early August we presented our submission in support of Bayer’s application for reassessment of the fungicide ‘Luna Privilege’ to allow on-label use for botrytis in greenhouses. This product is extensively used in greenhouses in Europe.  We are awaiting the EPA’s decision. 

Board visits Plant & Food Research Hawkes Bay

Dr Jim Walker’s advice to “use the most selective and softest product against your worst pest” resonated with TomatoesNZ board members during a visit to Plant & Food Research’s Havelock North research centre.   As part of their August meeting, the board met with Dr. Walker, who provided a tour of the facility and an overview of the apple industry’s investment in long-term sustainability.

Dr Walker’s extensive knowledge from over 30 years in the industry was not lost with the board.  He spoke about the apple futures programme which began in 2007 to target low residue premium fruit for international markets.  The extensive work done under this programme includes crop protection, with the apple industry reducing the number of pesticide applications and eliminating organophosphates with a softer programme in place now.

For long-term sustainability, biologicals are important in pest management, along with tools such as mating disruption.   Sex pheromones are used to disrupt communication between insects and scientists at PFR developed the aptly named “4play” to suppress mating in codling moth and three leafroller species.  In addition to the pheromone use in apple orchards, a sterile codling moth pilot program in the Hawkes Bay is progressing well.

Getting rid of sprays and using mating disruption was Dr Walker’s suggestion to the board.  He recounted the story of a codling moth parasite that was released by apple growers in the 1920’s but was believed not to have successfully established because it was not seen since. However it was rediscovered in NZ a few years ago.    He puts this down to the recent decreasing insecticide use allowing beneficial predator populations to grow. It was noted that most of the predators used in the apple industry are “specialists”, predating just one pest species each, rather than polyphagous “generalists”.  When asked if the fresh tomato industry could follow in the apple industry’s footsteps, Dr. Walker thought it would be a challenge given the enclosed greenhouse environments that required “cleaning out” each year and therefore removal of the establishing biocontrol agent populations.

TNZ board at PFR

TomatoesNZ board at Plant & Food Research