Covered crop health & safety workshop
During August TomatoesNZ facilitated a workshop with a small group of covered crop growers and specialists to discuss key areas of concern when managing workplace practices in glasshouse operations. The group included representatives from tomato, capsicum and cucumber growing operations with both operational and health & safety expertise.
The group focused on glasshouse tasks and situations that the industry recognises require some caution, and discussed development of best practice guidance through sharing good practice ideas and suggestions for the industry.
Management of the following areas were discussed during the workshop:
- Piperail trolleys
- Glass breakage
- Roof washing
- Agrichemical and residue compliance
- Structures and working at height
From the workshop a guidance document on industry best practice is being updated, with the next steps involving input from local machinery suppliers and industry trainers. Once available, this information will be shared with members on both the TomatoesNZ and Vegetables NZ member websites.
Import Health Standards review
Import Health Standards are Ministry for Primary Industries documents. They outline the procedures that entities sending goods to New Zealand (and importers) must follow, in order to reduce the phytosanitary risks to New Zealand of those goods i.e. from pests and diseases or biosecurity. There are hundreds of import health standards covering all sorts of goods. MPI are in a process of reviewing some Import Health Standards. The first stage has proposed a new format for the 121 Import Health Standards for fresh fruits and vegetables, including the one for imported fresh tomatoes.
In August TomatoesNZ submitted on MPI’s proposed changes to the Fresh Tomato for Human Consumption Import Health Standard. MPI were primarily asking for feedback on the formatting and readability. However, we noticed that there had been some other fairly important changes, including addition of a requirement for a basic quality standard and Good Agricultural Practise (GAP) for imports, which was not clearly defined.
We supported the addition of quality standards for imports, but felt that addition of GAP was not appropriate, as it didn’t guarantee that sufficient measures were being taken by the overseas producer to ensure that the imports were pest free; and GAP is also much wider than just pest control. Other submitters shared this view, and following a subsequent meeting with MPI, this was dropped from the revised fresh fruit and vegetable Import Health Standard documents.
We also pointed out that new wording in the fresh tomato document expressly prevented truss tomato imports, even though earlier versions expressly permitted them. It was important for us to point out this error, because although it might be nice to think we would then not get any imported truss tomatoes here, this could be seen as a trade barrier and risk retaliation on our exporters. MPI are rectifying this.
There will be further rounds of proposed import health standard changes including a technical review of the fresh tomato standard and the seed for sowing standard. We commissioned Market Access Solutionz to do a review of the current tomato standards. From that we will have some things we will be commenting on when those reviews come around to make sure that there is an appropriate level of protection from biosecurity risks.
We are developing a project to look at potential new labour-saving devices and/or techniques for the glasshouse cropping industry. It is in the early stages, but may involve: assessing tasks or points in the production and packing system where labour efficiency could be improved; and/or integrating already-available technology and hardware to engineer something that automates a labour-intensive repetitive task. If you have any thoughts, please get in touch.
Biosecurity levy update
The Fresh Tomato Biosecurity Levy application was approved by the Minister in early September. We are awaiting the drafting of the Levy Order and hope to be able to implement the levy before the end of 2019. We will be getting in touch with levy payers and collection agents directly with more information when we know the commencement date, as we will begin to collect the new levy immediately. The levy (with an initial rate 0.1% and maximum rate of 0.25%) was approved by a vote at the 2017 AGM but has taken a long time to work through the system. The initial funds collected will go towards the 2019 Fruit Fly responses in Auckland.