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Pipfruit Growers To Protest In Wellington

On Wednesday 6 December, busloads of desperate Hawke's Bay pipfruit growers will bring to Parliament their call for urgent changes to the apple and pear industry Regulations. They will be joined by growers from Gisborne, Waikato, Wairarapa, and Levin.

The growers are facing a crisis because the newly corporatised ENZA has announced that it will not accept a large percentage of the coming crop for export. ENZA is also using the industry Regulations to oppose exports outside of their control.

Organiser and spokesman for the Grower Survival Group, Peter Young, says that unless the Government urgently changes the Regulations to allow more exports, a large part of the coming crop will be left to rot.

Peter Young says growers are desperate because many are facing certain financial ruin.

"We have been forced to protest in Wellington in order to save our industry.

"ENZA don't want a lot of our fruit but they don't want anyone else to export it either. ENZA will accept the fruit for juicing, but the returns don't even pay the picking and trucking costs.

"We want the Government to immediately relax the Apple and Pear Export Regulations to allow the millions of cartons of fruit that ENZA don't want to be exported by other exporters.

"The industry review announced by the Government has some merit and we fully support the longer term plan, but we simply cannot wait until 2002 to resolve the present crisis. Many growers will have gone broke before then.

"All we are asking for is the opportunity to sell our produce - something that most other people in business take for granted," concluded Mr Young.

ENDS Further information: Peter Young Chairman Grower Survival Group Tel: 06 878 5498 or mobile 025 455 007

For Immediate Release 29 November 2000

Pipfruit Grower Survival Group

Background Information for Media

When the Apple and Pear Export Regulations 1999 were passed into law, the newly corporatised ENZA effectively retained the statutory monopoly right to export all New Zealand's pipfruit, even though they are no longer required to take all acceptable fruit.

In August this year, two corporate raiders, Guiness Peat Group and Fay Richwhite Partners wrested control of ENZA from ordinary pipfruit growers.

They then announced to growers that they do not want a significant portion of the 2001 crop for export - perhaps as much as 25 percent. ENZA's marketing plan for the 2001 season is to restrict the amount of fruit exported to approximately fifteen million cartons of the estimated nineteen to twenty million cartons that will be produced.

Based on the fruit out-turn and prices for the 2000 harvest for the three main varieties of Royal Gala, Braeburn and Fuji, ENZA's announcement will make a large proportion of the fruit uneconomic to grow. Fruit deemed unsuitable by ENZA can be sent for juicing but returns of only six cents per kilogram do not even pay the picking and trucking costs.

Other exporters are ready and willing to buy the fruit ENZA does not want. But they have to apply for an export permit from the independent Export Permits Committee established under the 1999 Regulations.

Obtaining an export permit through this Committee is a very tall order because not only can ENZA use the statute to argue against any prospective permit, but they also have the resources to fight Export Committee decisions. The cards are all stacked in ENZA's favour because the Committee guidelines require other exports to be complementary to ENZA's business, even though they are competitors. As part of the process, the independent exporters also have to divulge a précis of their business plan to ENZA (their competitor) and accept blatant conflicts of interest.

ENZA have tried to deny their opposition to independent exports, but at a meeting of the Applenz Group of Hawke's Bay growers held at the Meeanee Hall on 29 September 2000, ENZA Chief Executive David Geor led the crowd to believe that ENZA would oppose every permit application until hell froze over.

So the bottom line is that ENZA doesn't want to export many of the apples and pears but they don't want anybody else to export them either. The legislation is designed to protect ENZA but this is clearly contrary to the best interests of many growers and exporters. Growers want an immediate change to relax the Apple and Pear Export Regulations so that the millions of cartons of fruit that ENZA doesn't want can be exported by other exporters. The changes to the Regulations being sought by the growers will not ruin ENZA. This is important because ENZA is still important to the New Zealand pipfruit industry. But the industry needs ENZA to earn its pre-eminent export position in a competitive environment. At the moment, whether good, bad or indifferent, the growers are stuck with ENZA.

Unless something changes before the next harvest, the prospect of millions of cartons of apples rotting on the trees is very real. For many growers who are nearly broke already, this will be the last straw.

Growers say that the industry review announced by the Government has some merit but that they simply cannot wait until 2002 to resolve the present crisis. Many growers will have gone broke before then.

To date the politicians lack of public response to this crisis has been a notable feature. But the growing angry mood amongst growers is something that can no longer be ignored. A movement for change has now been started that cannot be stopped. The only question is whether Parliament will act quickly enough to mitigate the looming disaster with next year's crop.

Peter Young Chairman Growers Survival Group Telephone 06 878 5498

3 December 2000


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