Produce Industry Launches UN Initiative in New Zealand

Aotearoa’s $6 billion fresh produce industry has rolled out a localised UN initiative, as it celebrates the launch of the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables (IYFV). The 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly declared 2021 as the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables to highlight the nutritional benefits of fresh produce.

The official launch at Parliament was hosted by the Hon Damien O’Connor, Minister of Agriculture, in partnership with United Fresh, New Zealand’s pan produce industry organisation, Horticulture New Zealand and Plant & Food Research.

The UN recognises the significant contribution that fresh produce makes to food security, generation of income, and employment of growers and farmers worldwide. In Aotearoa, that contribution is receiving renewed recognition as the pandemic serves as a reminder of the important role our local food producers make in our daily lives.

“As New Zealanders, we have the good fortune to live in a fruit basket and a salad bowl. Our horticultural sector has worked through very uncertain Covid times to keep us healthy with fresh produce, and we thank them for that. We must focus our efforts on ensuring all children both here and around the world can enjoy the nutrition that nature provides us,” said Damien O’Connor.

Jerry Prendergast, United Fresh President, noted that the role of fruit and vegetables in supporting health is critical to our well-being, but the fresh produce industry has a significant contribution to the entire economy as a source of income and employment, particularly in our rural communities. The IYFV aims to recognise the inextricable links that exist between agriculture and the entire food system.

“Fruit and vegetable production has been a critical part of the New Zealand economy for more than a century. Now, more than ever, we need to ensure our produce is reaching all Kiwis,” said Prendergast.

“Aotearoa’s fresh produce growers are already working hard to adopt sustainable practices. The IYFV offers a platform for us to further the advances that we have made in improving our storage, transport and processing procedures to bring fruit and vegetables to market with as little environmental impact as possible.”

The United Nations also places specific emphasis on the empowerment of women through education, recognising their role in sustainable farming practices. In Aotearoa, women comprise about half of our horticultural workforce yet only 20 percent of the industry’s leadership roles. Prendergast believes the IYFV provides an opportunity to address the imbalance.

“Encouraging diversity of both gender and culture in roles across the industry is an important factor in ensuring the future of our industry. The IYFV is set to renew the focus on diversity issues and provide a catalyst for long term change,” concluded Prendergast.