2020: The year that proved our industry’s resilience and agility

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PNZ 2020: the year in review

By Gemma Carroll

The words ‘unprecedented’ and ‘extraordinary’ have been used a lot this year and the New Zealand Potato Industry has risen to all the challenges that have come our way: domestic and international lockdowns; changing health and safety guidelines for the pandemic response on farms and at processing facilities; import threats to our processing sector and uncertainty about the market domestically as well as in export. Add to that the many regions facing Plan Changes and a future where even more proof of good farm management is essential for both regulatory and social license to grow. It’s a wonder we’re all still standing.

We know everyone is feeling weary and quite probably tired from so many Zoom meetings, weather bombs and uncertainty, yet the planting and harvesting continues around the country and NZ can be grateful for the beautiful food we have continued to produce and supply.

Some of the industry wins this year are:

  • Field Walks 2020 in Pukekohe, Levin and Canterbury were packed with our latest R&D updates and were attended by around 60 people across the country
  • A rapid response to the global pandemic with swift organizational action in writing a Recovery Plan to support the industry including:
  • The Market Research project to capture the changes in domestic consumer behaviour
  • A tariff application to MBIE, to ensure a level playing field for our NZ producers in light of the EU import threat. This is now successfully under investigation with MBIE
  • A call cycle to PNZ members to ensure grower welfare and capability
  • Collaboration with other Primary Sector organisations to ensure food supply and reducing waste
  • Research and Development have 10 current projects which can be viewed on our website here https://potatoesnz.co.nz/research-and-development/research-projects/
  • The Chip Group activities were cancelled due to hospitality closures during lockdowns and we pivoted into a #SaveOurFries #nzfries #buylocal campaign on social media which garnered huge support online and media attention, which bolstered our application to MBIE for investigation into the EU import threat
  • Nationwide meetings were held with growers on the Regional Plan changes and hearings were completed with presentations from our grower representatives, processor representatives, PNZ team and planning consultants at the Horizons Council and ECAN
  • The annual November Means New Potatoes event also pivoted and became a highly successful digital campaign, which is running for 3 months from September 29th until December 28th on multiple digital channels. Engagement is in the 200,000s at the time of writing and we still have 6 weeks to go. The campaign is informed entirely by the Market Research Project done earlier in the year and supports the goals of our Recovery Plan
  • The PNZ Biosecurity, Emissions & levy Information System (BELIS) went live at the end of October and is streamlining all our administrative data
  • The Sustainable Vegetable Systems had a $4.7 million funding injection from the Ministry of Primary Industries and gained partnerships with Plant and Food, VR&I and Horticulture New Zealand
  • Another project with important outputs is the Potato Tuber Moth (PTM) project, which has completed a PTM Literature Review, now available on our website. The PTM Technical Bulletin can be found here. PNZ Technical Manager Dr Iain Kirkwood is meeting with PFR researchers weekly and extending their PTM research findings to agronomists and growers on his regular farm visits
  • In February 2020 the board revised our industry strategic goals to be:
    • Double the value of fresh and processed New Zealand based exports by 2025
    • Enhance the value of the domestic market by 50% by 2025
    • Zero net nutrient and GHG emissions from the potato industry by 2050

This aligns with the government’s emissions targets and maintains our industry’s social and regulatory license to operate.

We ended the 2019 year with an industry value of $1.1 billion. Our industry has achieved domestic value growth of 44% since 2013.

PNZ would like to acknowledge the consistently hard work of the growers, processors and everyone working in and for our industry. We look forward to 2021 gathering momentum for our emissions management and market growth.