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Gibbs Dismisses Zespri’s “hysterical” Claims

Turners & Growers
25 November 2009

Gibbs Dismisses Zespri’s “hysterical” Claims

Turners & Growers Chairman, Tony Gibbs today dismissed Zespri’s claims over concerns being raised about the monopoly internationally as typically “hysterical” and said they were simply another smokescreen put up by Zespri in order to avoid questions on its monopoly status, its practices and performance. “The last thing Zespri wants to do is debate free trade.”

He also questioned the comments from Trade Minister Hon Tim Groser that “this is a commercial dispute dressed up in policy terms.”

“I can’t understand why a Minister who purports to be a champion of free trade would say that, unless it’s an attempt to avoid the real issues.”

Gibbs said that the issue of Zespri’s privileged monopoly position is entirely about Government policy. “The key questions to be answered are: Is NZ committed to free trade, or not? Is NZ committed to open or competitive markets, or not? Does the New Zealand economy desperately need productivity growth and innovation, or not?”

“Obviously, it is quite proper for Mr Groser to speak to international trade issues - that is his job. But he should not purport to be speaking for the New Zealand Government on matters of agricultural policy. Our understanding is that Hon David Carter is the responsible Minister on this issue and he is actually listening and following the policy debate, a debate that is far from over,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs said he was disappointed but not surprised by Zespri’s attempt to close down the public debate through its “breathless hysterics”. Firstly they secretly write to Mr Groser to raise this issue. Then, after it becomes known that they have done so, they say they don’t want to discuss the issues that arise, preferring instead to continue their secretive approach.

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“Zespri’s ‘hide and leak’ strategy is no longer credible. If Mr Jager or Mr Loughlin have an issue with Turners and Growers they should state it publicly, not leak the letter and then refuse to front up.”

“As Hon Tim Groser said, this a free society. We are leading an open and honest debate about issues of substance that are important for all New Zealanders. We have, right from the start, placed all of our policy papers and court proceedings on our website for all to see. The only secrets here are Zespri’s. We have spread our information far and wide. It is hardly surprising that overseas consumers, competition authorities and governments are following this debate closely and are keenly interested - so they should be. The United States Government does not take orders from us. It is asking questions because it agrees that Zespri’s conduct raises serious questions.”

We believe Zespri has been acting unlawfully by carrying on businesses it is not permitted to operate, signing growers and packhouses up to exclusivity agreements, monopolising kiwifruit cultivars, and seeking to tie up the Australian market. The Government never authorised any of that.”

He said the leadership of the current Government has made it clear that promoting economic productivity and free trade is critical to New Zealand’s future prosperity. “They have asked for ideas from businesses on how to achieve this, and we have provided one. Zespri’s monopoly is perhaps the clearest example of an obstacle to both objectives. Is Mr Groser saying that the votes of those kiwifruit growers who support Zespri and the SPE are more important to this Government than promoting New Zealand’s broader economic interests? Do we want good policy in this country or are we content with political expedience?”


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