ACT: New solutions for apple crisis
ACT is the only party that recognises that the country's apple growers are facing the most serious crisis in the industry's history, says ACT rural spokesman Owen Jennings.
Mr Jennings, along with other high-ranked farmer candidates on ACT's party list, is holding meetings with apple growers in Hawkes Bay today as part of ACT's Heartland Tour.
"Last year over half of all apple growers made a loss. The Braeburn variety, which apple growers were encouraged by the Board to plant, now appears to be an unprofitable crop - not just for this year, but next year also," Mr Jennings said. "The Board itself, in order to pay out to growers, has gone into debt.
"Other parties saying that a statutory marketing monopoly is the answer are demonstrating that they not only don't know the real situation, but they also don't have any answers.
"The large apple growers are saying that deregulation is the answer - as it most certainly is for them. What ACT says is that we need to have more imaginative solutions. We need to have a plan for the small apple growers who are over 50% of the industry but produce just 5% of the crop. "These growers are finding themselves in debt and are unable to finance alternative solutions for themselves. ACT points out that when the grape growers had a similar crisis 10 years ago, a government programme to pull out unprofitable varieties, although criticised at the time, has resulted in the grape industry coming through the crisis and now has a good future.
"The timid changes by the government will prove to be ineffective. The re-regulation solution by Labour will just result in the whole industry going bankrupt. Only ACT is saying that we need positive change and ACT is prepared when in government to sit down with the industry and look at much bolder solutions that will assist not just the big growers but also the small ones."
Mr Jennings and fellow ACT farmer candidates Penny Webster (ranked 8), Gerry Eckhoff (ranked 9) and Andy Davies (ranked 14) are in their third day of a two week Heartland Tour around both the North and South Islands, listening to farmer concerns and getting ready to represent rural NZ effectively after the election.