Chairman’s Update

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By Stuart Wright

Potatoes Levy Referendum

This year is vital for all of us who are part of Potatoes NZ; growers and our industry in general. The upcoming Levy Referendum is the time to focus on our successes and goals in the last few years.

Our strategy has involved realistic and sensible ways to maintain and increase grower incomes creating a growth path we can all buy into. This has only been made possible with our commodity levy and the open communication we have had with growers, who have faced their fair share of bad weather, marketing and supply challenges. Potatoes NZ is evening out the effects of these challenges, and improving ways to get our potatoes to the right markets at the right price.

Only five seasons ago in 2013 the new levy allowed us to forge ahead as an industry in a competitive and changing market. The levy and everyone’s hard work has meant that rather than waiting for the market and trends to set the future for growers, we have been able to confidently develop our goals and chart our own success.

The heart of our strategy is simple, effective and sets the standard for the next six years of the levy:

  1. Double the value of fresh and processed New Zealand based exports by 2025;
  2. Enhance the value of the domestic market by 50% by 2025;
  3. Increase profitability per Hectare per annum by $150.

These straightforward goals make sense to growers up and down the country and provide a measuring stick of progress at the same time. I am please to be able to report we are making good progress and these goals are on track to being achieved.

Market Value Growth

We have seen annual total market value reach NZ$982 million as of December 2017. Growth has been achieved in both the Domestic and Export Markets with growth since 2013 being 28% and 17% respectively, showing we are well on target to reach our goals by 2025. Maintaining access and improving access to international markets such as to the Fijian market for fresh table potatoes is key to maintaining growth. PNZ has been active to ensure minimal interruption to this strategically important trade. The Biosecurity & Regulatory Subcommittee ensure that growers and exporters have direct input into the market access and biosecurity activities planned by PNZ.


A strong example of how we have worked for growers is our Research, Development & Extension (RD&E) program in partnership with the Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) which we’ve been reporting to you in the 11 Potato Updates; in the Field Walks held in each of the main growing regions and at our biennial conferences. We have completed 12 R&D projects and another 18 R&D are in progress, and members have seen and commented on the field trials and projects first-hand. We have held Grower Talks with international experts in our main growing regions. These projects are building momentum and we are pleased with the progress to date. The R&D Technical Panel enables growers, processors and agronomists to have input into the PNZ R&D Program.


Chips and crisps are an important part of our industry. Our processors play a crucial role in growing both the domestic and export markets. We are therefore pleased to have close relationships, with them being Trade Members of PNZ. The Chip Group, a technical panel of PNZ, play a crucial role in improving the understanding of the nutritional status of chips having trained over 1,400 people through the Chip Group Best Practice Frying training course. The Best Chip Shop Competition was relaunched in 2017 and the People’s Choice Best Chips is now being held annually, showing our commitment to this sector.

To ensure demand is maintained for fresh table potatoes we initiated the November Means New Potatoes season launch, which attracted more than 50 influential food writers and media – generating over 20 ‘good news’ stories in national media. This included a national television campaign to promote consumption of new season potatoes, in association with United Fresh’s 5+ A Day campaign. Following it’s success it this will be repeated annually. These advances are putting money in the bank for growers and demonstrate what smart co-ordinated promotions can achieve for the image potatoes. Ensuring potatoes are kept on the plate is the key goal.

The voice of growers

Potatoes NZ is ensuring we are representing and talking where we need to be to keep us ahead of the changing issues.

Some of the examples worth noting include:
” Working closely with Horticulture New Zealand and various government ministries to get our issues and perspective understood;
” Active representation on GIA Deed Governance Group, Plant Market Access Council (PMAC), Horticulture Industry Forum (HIF) and Vegetable Chairs’ Forum;
” In 2012 the Biosecurity Act 1993 made provision for the Government Industry Agreement for Biosecurity Readiness and Response (GIA) and the GIA Deed which we signed in 2016 as part of our commitment to biosecurity readiness and response;
” In 2017 we led the way and were the first vegetable group to sign a GIA Sector Operational Agreement with the Ministry for Primary Industries. As a part this commitment we updated our Biosecurity Pest & Disease Handbook and ran an inaugural Biosecurity Pest & Disease Inspector training in 2017;
” Potatoes NZ and our growers are partnering with WorkSafe in our proactive approach to Health & Safety to protect all of us. Last year we ran Health & Safety workshops in Winchester, Pukekohe, Shannon and Ohakune, with 66 PNZ members attending.

As a seed grower I am keen to see further progress on improving seed quality. One example that provides quality assurance for our growers is the work of the Seed Certification Authority (NZSPCA). NZSPCA who ensure seed quality standards are maintained. The Authority represents the seed industry including growers, merchants and works closely with the Inspectors to ensure broad industry participation.

To cement the gains we have made together in 5 short years we need to keep up our momentum. You can read more on the Referendum on the PNZ website at

PNZ’s and grower’s achievements have only been possible with the security of our levy. It allows us to plan; to develop sustainable strategies; and to develop realistic growth plans that benefit us and the NZ economy.

I want to thank the Board and staff for the range of the successes we have achieved under the management of Champak Mehta and now Chris Claridge. Critical has been our strategic partners FAR and Horticulture NZ who have provided tangible valuable support. At the same time we have progressed with the positive contribution of the other vegetable product groups cooperation and support and I want to see us continue these partnerships as we move towards our 2025 goals. The primary aim of PNZ to ensure that the levy is an investment and is not a cost to growers. I believe that we have achieved this and look forward to your support in the upcoming Levy Referendum.