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Waikato forum: what dairy can learn from kiwifruit crisis

Waikato forum: what dairy can learn from kiwifruit crisis

Dairy farmers facing the industry’s lowest milk price in years will this month hear lessons learnt by the kiwifruit industry when Psa struck in 2010.

“We are different industries, but we are still people. One looks after animals, one looks after plants – but we are people, we have passion, we have drive, we earn our income and live our lifestyles this way,” says Ian Greaves, kiwifruit industry representative.

The kiwifruit vine disease, Psa, devastated all Gold kiwifruit orchards across the Bay of Plenty but also affected Green, with many growers only now getting their first or second crop since it occurred.

But like all industries facing adversity, the focus quickly shifted from practical aspects (managing the orchards and plants), to looking out for the people involved.

“We became aware that this disease was taking hold and we needed to look after the people – because either we’d find solutions to Psa but all the people had left, or the disease would wipe out the industry and leave the people,” says Ian.

He says the current reduced milk price is an adversity which could have a similar impact on dairy farmers.

Ian and Zespri chief operating officer Simon Limmer are among the line-up of speakers presenting to dairy farmers at the DairyNZ Farmers’ Forum, May 17-18, in Hamilton.

The two-day Farmers’ Forum at Mystery Creek Events Centre is expected to attract over 700 farmers.

But while Psa hit the pockets of 2000 kiwifruit growers – taking incomes and knocking an estimated 75 percent off land values – the sector is bouncing back.

“Now the industry is buoyant, land prices are higher than before and we have a new Gold cultivar which is tolerant of Psa, with management. The world markets have invigorated too – people are queuing up for New Zealand kiwifruit,” says Ian.

“We’re in a real sweet spot right now. But many of the people have been quite battered, it’s still quite close to the surface.”

Which is why Ian and Simon are spreading the message that industries facing adversity must look after their people.

“Look after yourself and after each other – go and see how the neighbours are doing. We all want to keep our skilled people in the industry rather than having to find new people.”

Simon says the kiwifruit industry’s response to the Psa crisis was broad-ranging, as they sought to take decisive action to contain it and develop a recovery pathway.

“We benefited from being a cohesive industry with strong, two-way communication between Zespri and growers, and we had significant support from the government. On top of that, looking after the most-affected people by providing support, was vital.”

Other keynote speakers at the Farmers’ Forum include Deputy Prime Minister Hon Bill English, Fonterra CEO Theo Spierings and Rabobank head of food and agribusiness research and advisory, Tim Hunt.

The biennial event will give dairy farmers insight into how to adapt their businesses in the current challenging times and how the global environment will shape the future of New Zealand milk production.

The DairyNZ Farmers’ Forum is free to levy paying dairy farmers and their staff.

Registrations are open and essential prior to the event. To view the full programme or register, visit

DairyNZ Farmers’ Forum 2016

May 17-18
Mystery Creek Events Centre, Hamilton

Speakers include:

- Deputy Prime Minister Hon Bill English

- Fonterra CEO Theo Spierings

- Fonterra chief operating officer – velocity, Jacqueline Chow

- Rabobank head of food and agribusiness research and advisory, Tim Hunt.

The Farmers’ Forum is free to levy-paying dairy farmers and their staff. Registrations are essential. Visit


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