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.