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Seed Plant Re-opening Is ‘icing On The Cake’ For Wairarapa - Feds

Confirmation that the old Masterton Vegetable Seeds processing plant will reopen for local seed growers is the ‘icing on the cake’ for peas growers in the Wairarapa this year, Karen Williams says.

PGG Wrightson Seeds has today announced a long-term lease of the former Akura Road site and machinery, which is "absolutely brilliant news" for local growers and the wider Wairarapa community, the Federated Farmers Biosecurity spokesperson and MPI Pea Weevil Governance Group Appointee says.

"To restore an operational seed cleaning and processing facility in the Wairarapa means we’ve cleared the last major hurdle to returning the local pea growing industry to where it was before the pea weevil incursion four years ago."

The total ban on growing peas in the Wairarapa meant that 18 months ago the Masterton Vegetable Seeds plant was no longer financially viable. Fortunately, it was mothballed rather than dismantled.

PGG Wrightson Seeds will get it going again for processing of all seed types - cereals, vegetables and pulses, which provides a fantastic opportunity for local growers to not only resume previous crop options but also explore alternative crops. Other seed companies will also be able to use the processing facilities so Karen is optimistic that local growers will see a host of new seed growing options offered by seed companies.

"PGG Wrightson Seeds has already said they’ll look to increase their current Masterton site staff of five by another three or four workers. I think we’ll see a snowball effect, as seed companies offer more local contracts, growers respond and that flows on to employment gains for the whole community," Karen says.

"This is particularly exciting in a post COVID-19 lockdown situation where the community is eager to see viable job creation."

Federated Farmers, local growers and the Wairarapa Economic Development Strategy had been working behind the scenes to pitch to the Provincial Growth Fund for investment for a Wairarapa seed facility. It’s great that "Plan B" is no longer needed, she says.

One factor that would have given PGG Wrightson Seeds assurance their additional investment was sound was the progress being made on enhancing water storage locally by Wairarapa Water Limited.

"To successfully grow crops of all types in the Wairarapa - and indeed for home gardeners, industrial users, towns and rural communities - there needs to be surety of water when we don’t get rainfall for long stretches. The government, businesses and local farmers are investing to continue progress to achieving that water security and support local resilience."

There’s another reason why a strong seed growing industry in the Wairarapa is vital, and not just because prior to the weevil incursion the Wairarapa was responsible for 10% of the $50 million in domestic sales and $80 million of export sales that New Zealand earned from peas in 2016.

"We’re also eager to get growing contracts so that we can get back amongst delivery of high quality seeds that are geographically isolated from other big seed growing areas. We need that for biosecurity," Karen says.

"If the pea weevil incursion had happened to Canterbury and we needed to lock down that entire area with a pea growing ban, that would have been a massive hit to the pea growing industry.

"So we need each other and we need that geographic isolation to help us.

"Our message to the seed companies is ‘help us build a resilient seed industry’. PGG Wrightson Seeds has shown that commitment and confidence in local growers; we’d like others to do the same."

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