Whether you’re growing it, selling it, or packing it, there’s simply no denying fresh produce is a staple in every New Zealand home.
As we know, it's also a vital component of our relatively small country's burgeoning economy. In fact, most of New Zealand's export income is generated by shipping our humble local produce to foreign shores. That alone is well worth celebrating. It can be a tough gig, this business. The Kiwi soil we call home is all too willing to soak up the blood, sweat, and tears it takes to achieve results like these.
I'd also be lying if I said that hard work is the only contributing factor. Planning, preparation, and a little smart thinking remain keys to success in this industry. Hard work for hard work's sake? It just isn't worth doing. As you're likely well aware, we're big fans of automating processes here at Jenkins so that you're working smarter, not harder. So as we push into the new year in earnest, I've been doing a little thinking of my own.
What are the pressing challenges facing the fresh produce in 2019?
More than that, how can we prepare for and overcome them?
1. CLIMATE CHANGE LEAVES THE FORECAST UNCERTAIN
Name an issue more deserving of the top spot. I’ll wait. While it may not rank here for those in a position to do something about it, those of us on the ground or, more specifically, working on it and making a living from it, are keenly aware of the threat climate change poses to this industry.
This is an occuring change whether we are ready for it or not. You’ve likely heard the story a million times before. Greenhouse gases are resulting in changes in air and ocean temperatures, and we’re already seeing the effects of this with temperatures and varying weather patterns resulting in damage to the environment.
Subsequently, these changes affect our production of fruits and veggies. This also affects what we can grow, quantities we can harvest, and the quality of fruit, changing the productivity and quality of the harvest one year to the next.
While it’s yet to hit our shores or store shelves in earnest, we won’t alway be this lucky.
Pretty scary right?
Unfortunately, weather patterns are not the only factor that are set to suffer. Climate change also has the potential to enhance or disrupt biological systems. The bee-flower relationship is an exemplary signal-receiver system. In real terms, this means plant species may be less receptive to bee pollinators in changing climates, reducing the effectiveness of fruit pollination, size, quality, and quantity.
Climate change also raises the lingering issue of water. It’s a real and ongoing challenge. We aren’t the only ones feeling the heat this summer. Crops not only need water to survive, but also to be productive and grow healthy food.
As climate change impacts areas of New Zealand, temperatures are only expected to become hotter and conditions drier. We need to get smarter, and quickly. How can we best share the water between urban areas and horticultural plantations? Because it’s not only people who need to slip, slop, slap, and wrap during summer.
2. A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE REQUIRES PACKAGING TO MATCH
Secondly, sustainable packaging. Yep, I said it! It should come as little surprise to most of you who’ve likely seen it blasted across television and article headlines. Sustainability is making waves across multiple industries, fuelled by a growing movement towards a cleaner, greener future.
“Did you bring your reusable bags?”
I’d bet you’ve heard this line before, and it likely won’t be the last. With recent bans on single-use plastic bags in supermarkets across the country, awareness of our collective environmental impact has now been magnified beyond small chatter in certain segments.
It isn’t just plastic bags that consumers are becoming conscious of. Many are now starting to ask themselves ”...how is my produce being packaged?”. They’re vocal, they’re driven, and they’re looking for answers. In 2019, you’d better be prepared to provide them.
To be fair, fresh fruit retailers have been acting on this change long before single-use plastic bags were removed from circulation. As we highlighted at the end of 2018, we’ve been doing what we can to give them a helping hand with “Products such as Enviro Pac Fibre Trays, Infia 100% rPET plastic punnets and our newest edition Bio Net have all been readily added to our stable of quality products”.
Take INFIA, for example. Producers are increasingly working with their readily available lineup, including products such as INFIA 100% R-PET, an entire range of packaging made from 100% recycled polyethylene. Not only are INFIA’s products made from 100% recycled materials and 100% sustainable, but they are also completely compliant to food health and safety regulations. It’s a win-win.
Enviro Pac is also on our list, creating sustainable packaging made from byproducts of natural materials, such as palm fibre pulp. So you can be rest assured we are doing our part to help reduce waste going into the environment and still bringing you the best quality packaging for your produce!
3. LABOUR SHORTAGES CONTINUE TO LOOM LARGE
Finally, the challenge we all didn’t want to hear... a shortage of labour. If there are no pickers, subsequently there is no fruit. Our foreign neighbours across the ditch plan on making it easier for seasonal workers to come in and work on orchards. The Australian government has put a no-cap on the number of Pacific Island workers they can employ to work a nine-month period in the Australian Horticulture Industry.
New Zealand may be going to take a leaf out of Australia's book by “...allowing tourists to pick without a working visa if the government declares a seasonal labour shortage in the country's primary apple-growing regions of Hawke's Bay and Nelson”, says Gary Jones (spokesperson for the New Zealand Pip Fruit Industry).
There is expected to be an extra 30,000 tonnes of apples this season and with no extra holiday workers turning up, this could result in fruit not being picked in time, fruit wastage, and a shortage in the marketplace. Labour is only going to get more expensive, so don’t sit around and wait for the inevitable.
HURDLES WERE MADE TO BE OVERCOME
Much of New Zealand’s wealth is driven by the rural sector, which is responsible for growth in New Zealand's export income. It is important to stay prepared and make fruitful decisions...planning is crucial to overcoming the challenges facing the horticulture industry, or any industry in fact, and you can rest assured we’ll be right there with you throughout the year.
So, what steps will your business under-go to stay ahead of the challenges predicted for 2019?