The first reading of the Consumers’ Right to Know (Country of Origin of Food) Bill was passed in Parliament yesterday (12 April).
“Given our recent survey showed that more than 70 percent of New Zealanders want mandatory Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) for fresh fruit and vegetables, it is great to see the Government listened to that,” Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says.
“Seventy-one percent of New Zealanders have told us they want to know where their fresh fruit and vegetables come from, and 70 percent said they also want to buy New Zealand-grown.
“We will now be encouraging people to take part in the democratic process by making a submission to the select committee that will be refining this Bill as it makes its way through the parliamentary process to become law. This will give people a chance to have a say and influence the law. It is easy to do and people can find out how on the New Zealand Parliament webpage under Make a submission.
“As it is election year, we are also starting a movement, via Facebook, to enable people to ask their local MP what they are going to do about meeting the people’s demand for mandatory CoOL. This law will not be made by the September general election, so people need to be clear what the next Government’s stance will be.
“Consumers want to be able to make choices based on their own beliefs and values. They may want to support local businesses, or buy what is in season and grown locally, or help keep and create jobs in their own area, or for that matter, buy products from other countries known for being the best at growing particular produce.
“There are a lot of misconceptions and myths around CoOL. Voluntary CoOL has been adopted by major supermarkets but there is no consistency across the board, which is why it needs to be mandatory. For example, people make assumptions about what they are buying at those local Saturday markets that spring up in neighbourhoods around New Zealand, but not all the produce meets those expectations of being fresh and locally grown.
“There are no trade issues – most of our trading partners have CoOL and our exporters certainly trade on coming from New Zealand, as people pay a premium for that.
“As for cost, Horticulture New Zealand is asking for single ingredient fresh fruit and vegetables to have mandatory Country of Origin Labeling. This does not mean we are asking for complicated label changes, or every piece of fresh fruit and vegetables to have individual labels. The sensible approach is to label the bin the fresh fruit or vegetables are in. And really, how much does it cost to write on a piece of cardboard?
“We want there to be a law requiring CoOL for fresh fruit and vegetables to be disclosed to shoppers at the point of purchase. The Government today started that process and, on behalf of the 5500 commercial fruit and vegetable growers we represent, we will work through the process to see this happen.”
Josie Vidal, communications manager Horticulture New Zealand, 027 542 7475