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Young Hort winner calls for primary industry diversification

PRESS RELEASE
Royal NZ Institute of Horticulture Education Trust
1 September 2015

‘Young Hort’ winner calls for more primary industry diversification

The downturn in prices confronting dairy farmers is a timely reminder to those in horticulture to consider crop diversification now, while kiwifruit, pipfruit and wine exports are booming.

Outgoing New Zealand Young Horticulturist of the Year (YHOY) title holder and Whangarei kiwifruit grower, Patrick Malley, believes local farmers can learn from the diversification practices of their Californian counterparts.

Malley was speaking after just having returned from a fact finding travel scholarship to the United States, which was part of his prize for winning the NZ Young Horticulturist of the Year 2014 competition.

While the dairy industry is at the bottom of its commodity cycle, the kiwifruit and pipfruit industries are booming, making it a good time to think about diversifying crop types to spread risk and create stability through commodity cycles.

“I am passionate about seeing more horticultural investment in Northland. I want to see an environment where staff have employment all year round, and diversification is a good way to achieve that. For example, we grow both avocados and Kiwifruit on our Northland property, but there is room for so many more diverse horticultural crops in the climate that we have here.

“It is true that California’s climate allows such a wide variety, whereas here in New Zealand we are a bit more vulnerable to seasonal extremes. But I believe that if we can move away from monoculture crops we will enjoy more economic stability – particularly here in Northland.

“We can keep more people employed longer and that has all kinds of social and economic benefits for a region,” says Malley.

AGMARDT general manager, Malcolm Nitschke, agrees that diversification is good risk management policy for farmers throughout the primary sector and points to the Western Bay of Plenty where some dairy farmers also have Kiwifruit orchards as an example.

“Farmers are generally fully committed to their own business and diversification isn’t an easy option. The capital investment required and the delay before you receive the returns means timing for such investments is critical.

“However, diversifying your farming income is like a superfund; it’s a long game to think about when you have the cash and a very good way to protect your investment and spread your risk,” says Nitschke.

The comments come two months out from the ‘NZ Young Horticulturist of the Year 2015 Competition’ Grand final which is set down for 11 and 12 November and are particularly relevant because the competition is about identifying young leaders who can take this country’s horticultural industry to the next level.

This year’s YHOY competition includes horticultural employees from every corner of New Zealand, all of them drawn from six sector competitions. Those who qualify will represent their sector in the RNZIH Education Trust’s ‘Young Horticulturist of the Year 2015 Competition’.

The six sectors include:
• Horticulture NZ (fruit and vegetable sectors)
• Nursery and Garden Industry of New Zealand
• NZ Winegrowers
• Amenity Horticulture supported by NZ Recreation Association
• Floriculture: Floristry NZ Inc. and NZ Flower Growers Inc.
• Landscaping New Zealand

Finalists (30 years and under) compete for a prize pool of over $40,000 that includes a $7,500 travel and accommodation package and a $5,500 Massey University study scholarship and travel.

The Young Horticulturist of the Year competition is made possible through the generous support of:
Young Horticulturist of the Year 2015 competition partners AGMARDT, T&G, Fruitfed Supplies.
Young Horticulturist of the Year Supporters Bayer CropScience, Massey University, Primary ITO, Countdown, NZ Gardener Magazine and Trillian Trust.

For more information about how to enter, visit www.younghort.co.nz for more information.

Ends/…

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