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Strawberry growers asked to vote on a levy proposal

Strawberry Growers New Zealand Board is asking growers to vote on a proposal to apply for a levy on strawberries, with voting papers going out today.

Following extensive consultation with growers and other stakeholders, Strawberry Growers New Zealand (SGNZ) are calling for all commercial strawberry growers to vote in a referendum to determine if there is a clear mandate from growers to apply for a commodity levy.

A levy rate of $26 per 1000 strawberry plants sold is being proposed, with support being sought to apply to the Minister for Agriculture for a Commodity Levies Order on strawberries. Currently the peak body for commercial strawberry growers, Strawberry Growers New Zealand Inc, is funded voluntarily by members plus a dividend from its subsidiary, NZ Berryfruit Propagating Company Ltd. SGNZ has over 70 paid up members which accounts for approximately 75% of total production.

The industry is keen to secure a successful future for New Zealand fresh strawberry growers by providing stronger support and representation. "Having a united voice on collective issues creates a better operating environment for growers", says Anthony Rakich, strawberry grower and chair of Strawberry Growers New Zealand.

"Strawberry Growers New Zealand’s purpose is to represent and take action on issues which best serve the interests of all strawberry growers. Our strategic objective is ‘growing better strawberries together’.

We undertake strawberry specific activities such as research on integrated pest management and provide representation on issues of biosecurity, food safety, export market access and more recently, labour," Rakich says.

The levy is expected to raise about $375,000 per year, which is to be spent on grower representation across areas important to commercial strawberry growers.

"It’s important all strawberry growers take the opportunity to vote on this proposal," Rakich says. "We believe that this means of industry funding is fairer, more inclusive and more transparent for all growers."

Consultation with growers has included posting out an information booklet, and visits to growers and stakeholders from Strawberry Growers New Zealand’s Board and senior executives. Voting closes on Friday 12 July, with results expected to be announced on Wednesday 17 July 2019.


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