Mike Chapman: Horticulture industry needs to innovate or lose competitive advantage

By Mike Chapman

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Mike Chapman
Mike Chapman

New Zealand's horticulture industry gets top dollars for its produce overseas. There are a number of reasons for this.

One of the most important is that we deliver what the consumer wants and therefore, what the consumer will pay for.

Equally important is that we are market leaders with our new varieties of fruit and vegetables. Once a new variety is developed and taken to market, for a number of years via international agreements, the owner of that variety has exclusive use of it. If this is a stunning variety that no one else has, that gives the owner of that variety an enormous advantage. Retailers and consumers want the different variety and will pay top dollars for it. Gold kiwifruit developed in New Zealand is a prime example of that.

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So while no one else has access to that variety, those involved in growing and selling it can maximise that advantage.

The basis for developing new varieties is research and development (R&D) – to not only breed the new variety, but to also develop innovative ways in which to grow it.

The Government's continued commitment to R&D, as evidenced in the media over the past few days, particularly with tax credits, will only enhance New Zealand's ability to innovate.

Forming collaborations and joint ventures internationally is also important for continued innovation. In some cases, New Zealand may not be the leading country breeding new varieties, but may become involved when the foreign companies leading the programmes invest in New Zealand.

So keeping the door open for companies that will bring innovation to New Zealand is vital as well. The Government's recent tightening of how the rules will work for foreign investment, although making it harder, will not close the door to investment that benefits New Zealand.

This is important, as innovation and research will keep New Zealand in its market leading position and benefit the entire country.

Mike Chapman is CEO of Horticulture New Zealand. This is his blog in Horticulture New Zealand's latest newsletter (http://www.hortnz.co.nz). Views expressed here are the writer's opinion and not the newspaper's. Email: [email protected]

- Hawkes Bay Today

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