Archive for 'Advance Australia Fair'

There Are Two Sides To Every Story

Similar but not identical produce crates from a bygone era

Similar but not identical produce crates from a bygone era

Australia and New Zealand share a lot of common history, have strong bonds as ‘brothers in adversity’, are closely cooperating members of the Commonwealth, often take a joint approach when it comes to tackling injustices in their common neighbourhood, such as the support for Timor Leste and getting the Japanese to stop whaling under scientific pretences in the Southern Ocean.

Then there are the sporting rivalries. Cricket, rugby, rugby league, netball, basket ball – the sport where our Australian cousins don’t claim to be superior beings has yet to be invented. Phar Lap, Pavlova as well as Russell Crowe, by the way, do have their origin in New Zealand, not across the ditch.

In the greater scheme of things though, we do get on. The similarities are obvious in many areas of society and in the economy. This includes horticulture and the produce industries of our respective countries.

United Fresh, the pan industry body of the New Zealand horticulture and produce industries, was very supportive when the Australian produce sector decided to re-establish an industry association under the PMA banner and suggested it became known as PMA Australia and New Zealand. That was because we recognised the similarities and trade connections that existed between our respective produce industries.

However, the terms ‘similar’ and ‘identical’ are not synonymous. Differences do exist and as a result of those inherent differences, industry structures present differently as well. I was therefore surprised to note the tone of an article about the Australian and New Zealand produce industries and their structures in the Autumn 2014 edition of Produce Plus Magazine. The article, entitled “Collaboration or Competition”, included this sentence:

“But there appear to be many opportunities for collaboration that are not being pursued, either for a lack of will or because existing competitive positions amongst stakeholders are too deeply entrenched.”

This statement is in my view either outright mischievous or an indication of a lack of knowledge about how different the two industries are – despite all the obvious similarities.

Here then are some key differences which will continue to play their role in ensuring that the Australian and New Zealand produce industries will never be collaborating to the extent that national identities are lost.

  1. Australia is a tropical fruit producer; New Zealand’s climate does not cater for these crops.
  2. Australia is self sufficient as a banana producer and bans banana imports to protect its local industry. New Zealand imports all its bananas, predominantly from the Philippines and Ecuador.
  3. New Zealand’s fresh produce industry is export focused, with the Zespri and Enza brands standing out as prime examples of what the New Zealand industry can achieve in global markets. Australia has an interstate focus, with exports coming a distant second.
  4. Australia’s capital cities operate municipal produce wholesale markets. No such markets exist in New Zealand cities. Here, commercial companies operate wholesale trading floors where retailers who do not receive direct supplies from growers can purchase their produce.
  5. New Zealand’s geography and topography differ to that of Australia. We might drive produce overnight from Auckland to Wellington. In Australia, produce is trucked by road train from Brisbane to Cairns, a journey that takes several days.
  6. New Zealand ranks joint first (with Denmark) in the global Corruption Perceptions Index 2013 of the world’s least corrupt nations. Australia ranks joint ninth (with Canada).
  7. New Zealand looks at Australian produce from the perspective that if it makes commercial sense to import the produce, then we will need to find a way to make it happen. Australia’s position is that New Zealand produce belongs anywhere but Australia.
  8. New Zealand has had very stable and effective grower and produce industry associations in Horticulture New Zealand and its predecessors, its affiliated product groups and United Fresh. PMA Australia (without the New Zealand bit) is the latest attempt to get an effective and sustainable produce industry organisation up and running in Australia.
  9. Australia’s federal political structure provides the Australian horticulture industry with plenty of challenges which we, on this side of the Tasman, are not experiencing. One central government and a multitude of local government agencies keep us on our toes enough as it is. This makes us very nimble, lean and ensures our effectiveness as in industry – something we are not keen to compromise.

Collaboration is a two way highway, not a one way street or cul de sac. I am sure that there is always more room for collaboration – just as we will never be able to collaborate on all facets of our respective produce industries.

One area the Australian and New Zealand produce industries have been collaborating on is this year’s industry conference, PMA Australia and New Zealand Fresh Connections. The event is co-hosted this year by PMA, Horticulture New Zealand, The Australian Chamber and United Fresh. An example for a plausible and achievable bit of collaboration, is it not?

Disclosure Note

The writer is a member of the United Fresh Executive Committee and a Trustee of the 5+ A Day Charitable Trust.  The opinions expressed here are his personal ones.

West Island Shananigans – The Aussies Are At It Again

Dick Smith is an Australian icon. They don’t have many – and as we know Phar Lap and Pavlova had their origins in New Zealand.  So did Russell Crowe as a a matter of fact, but I am digressing.  Anyway, we are used to it by now that our West Island cousins are always either claiming as theirs something that is most certainly not theirs – or trying to stop quality produce from New Zealand entering the land of Oz on the basis of scientifically unsustainable assertions.newbeetrootsizedwebshadow_0

Now we have a new variation to the theme.  Caustic Australian reactions when something is taken away which they consider rightfully theirs.  The case in point – Beetroot.  In that particular case, we have Heinz on an Australasian basis shifting its beetroot production for whatever reasons from Australia to Hawkes Bay in New Zealand and all hell is breaking loose.  Superior product in Australia, claims about inferior product in New Zealand, perceived threat to the Australian way of life….you name it, Dick says it.

The only half pie relevant comment Dick Smith makes  relates to the fact that multinationals have a habit of shifting production from one country to another as it suits and that New Zealand could find itself in a similar position in the future. True – but one would need to ask the question…What lead to the change in the first place and what can be learned ?

One thing Australia needs to learn – and not just related to beet root – is that the global trade concept is not a one way street that can be manipulated at will.  Dick Smith and others would do well by picking up A Splendid Exchange – How Trade Shaped the World (by William J Bernstein.)  And anyone else trying to figure out how come towns are no longer just consuming what is grown in front of their gates could benefit from having a read as well.  The whole concept and origin of trade is very well explained in this book, starting with the Sumerian and finishing with the oil trade of the 20th Century and the impact of the WTO.




An Amazing System Without A System!

Tiffin Wallahs are the people in India who deliver hot lunches to people at work.

Tiffin Wallah translates as – “one who carries the box”. Tiffin is an old English word for a light lunch, and also the name of the multi-compartment metal lunch box that carries it. Tiffin Wallahs originated over a century ago when the many Indians working for British companies disliked the food served at work. Tiffin service was created to bring home cooking to the workplace.

It’s an amazing system without a system! Modern supply chain afficinados are absolutely fascinated by the way India  has created and perfected this system And here is an Aussie entrepreneur having a crack of introducing a version of this into Melbourne by the looks of things…

Here We Go Again – Only It Is Apples This Time

I did not think I would end up writing that soon again about what is the Holy Grail  to some and an abomination for others – regulated marketing!  But as the New Zealand apple industry is trying to come to grips with the opportunities and threats represented by gaining access to the lucrative Australian market, the regulated marketing concept is getting another outing.  And rightly so, if for no other reason but to ensure that the industry has looked at all the options open to it.  As it stands, the debate on the matter is going on right now as I write this, today,  at the Pipfruit Meeting  in Hastings.

What is the core issue?

Well, when  apple marketing was deregulated in the late nineties the New Zealand pipfruit industry was shaken to its core, pardon the pun, and there exists a more or less general agreement that we stuffed up had not thought the issues entirely through and acted prematurely.  The since reconstituted, changed and slimmed down pipfruit industry which is earning no where near the margins it did under regulation is within reach of the biggest prize denied for close to a century – market access into Australia.  Naturally those of us who have learned from our actions and are also able to observe the fortunes of our friends, the kiwifruit growers, would like to see an orderly approach to entering the Australian market rather than a stampede akin to the “Running with the Bulls’ festival in Pamplona, which is a real possibility.  The smart money amongst the apple growing fraternity is trying to gain government support for creating order by way of manouvering Australian apple exports into HEA jurisdiction.  The excitable element of the industry, the element who are natural salesmen, be that of apples or second hand cars, do not want a bar of this. I do sincerely hope that common sense will prevail.  We need to go to Australia in a coordinated and strategic fashion.  Loose cannons need to get to the back of the queue and let wiser heads prevail.

A tricky one, though.  A free market government that nevertheless supports the kiwifruit regulations and faces an election in three months time.  An authority, HEA, who is all sorts of things but NOT a regulator in the way apple growers might think or like.  Australian growers who would love nothing better than see us shoot ourselves in the foot.  And Australian corporate retailers ready to pounce.

By the way, let us not for even one minute assume that Australian growers have rolled over and are playing dead.  On the contrary, here is a submission by one Australian orcharding family which considers itself under threat from our apples.



Bananas in Dirty Pyjamas

Bananas are always good for a comment or three.  And none more than Aussie bananas.  But lets start at home.  Turners & Growers have a few good things to say about Bonita BananasMG Marketing, the importers of Dole Bananas make a fleeting comment about bananas on their website and for Gracio Bananas, imported directly by Woolworths/Progressive, information is also easily available.

One thing that all three importers offer the New Zealand consumer is access to bananas of more or less consistent quality at prices that do not fluctuate wildly.  Let’s have a quick look across the ditch, shall we?

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