It’s the Season to be Jolly…

German Christmas Market

  

Well, I am not too sure about that but at least the title grabbed your attention!  What is an undisputed fact however is that we are nearing the end of yet another year in the Gregorian calendar – and whether we believe in the jolly old red fat fellow or not, we are likely to start reflecting about the year that has been and what we want to achieve in the one that is about to come. 

I spent part of my last twelve months being a member of the Horticulture New Zealand Implementation Task Force.  We met about half a dozen times during the year.  The purpose of the task force in plain English is “to promote and champion the adoption of the Strategy, provide advice and thought leadership on how the industry can effectively implement the Strategy and remove barriers to adoption of the strategy and measure and monitor Strategy adoption and implementation.”  (10/2020 Taskforce Terms of Reference). 

10/2020 Strategy Implementation Task Force

 

Easier said than done, ladies and gentlemen. 

For starters – what constitutes “the industry”? Is it the product groups affiliated to Horticulture New Zealand? Where does that leave mushroom growers for example?  Are we just talking about growers here?  Not according to the intent of Trade & Enterprise who envisaged that the strategy would serve the entire horticultural industry – of which growers are just one, albeit a crucial, component. I have discussed this aspect in some detail in the opening chapter of my book, so won’t repeat myself here. 

Next question then – how should industry participants be encouraged to adopt strategy findings and what exactly is it that the strategy document can achieve for industry members? 

We all have different learning styles.  Some of us learn best through reading information, some of us prefer to be visually stimulated whilst others learn best through interactive behaviours.  The strategy is not an instant recipe which provides fool proof guidance to, say, citrus growers, on how to double their export business over night.  Far from it. The strategy is a high level framework that focuses on the common issues which need to be tackled by industry at large in order to achieve the goal of $10 billion of industry sales by 2020. 

Eh, what exactly constitutes “industry sales”  then?  Another good question the Task Force tried to address in 2010! Anyone who is interested in a detailed response to that question should get in touch with Hort NZ CEO Peter Silcock. Make sure you have a spare half hour though – not because Peter is a difficult fellow to talk to, far from it. No, the question is actually not that easy to answer.  We know we don’t want to count wine.  But what about new innovative functional foods based on freeze dried blackcurrants? Should we include processed potato products such as French fries?  Potatoes New Zealand sure does when it looks at the size of “its” industry. 

There is no clear answer to some of those questions.  What makes sense for one group of growers might not work for another one.  In some instances, strategic growth will be achieved through  product group activity, in other situations the most appropriate vehicle might be the local growers association or a pure commercial solution. 

Produce Grower with a Vision!

 

Be that as it may, what is absolutely clear to me is that we are unlikely to succeed as solo artists. The central theme, the overriding consideration of the strategy, the absolutely quintessential and underpinning attribute that horticulture needs to achieve to succeed sustainably in the long term is the achievement of SCALE. 

Where does scale come from then?  How can we possibly achieve it?  

It is probably easier to answer this question initially from the “rear end” of the mule…  

Scale is not something that any of us can easily achieve flying solo by him- or herself.  

Scale is best achieved by working with others.   Two terms are crying out for definition in this last sentence – working with and others

Others 

It is possible to be a little more precise here.  Others could mean other growers in your area, it could mean other growers in other parts of the country or the world, it could be supply chain partners such as retailers, wholesalers or packers further along the value chain, it could be your bank, a research institute – or a combination of the lot of them.  It is up to you to define what others might mean within your particular context. 

Working with 

This definition lark is not getting any easier, is it?  The two specific modes of working with  the Strategy focuses on are cooperation and co-opetition.  We know all about cooperation in this country.  A large part of our primary industry sector is built around the cooperation model.  As cooperation becomes a little more organised we end up with organisational structures called Co-operatives. Fonterra is one of those.  As is Market Gardeners.  Foodstuffs, which operates the Pak’ N Save and New World supermarkets is one as well by the way.  Cooperation is the outcome when people or companies with similar needs and business interests join forces to provide a better service, grow a market, reduce their individual costs and communicate as one – all based on having virtually everything they do in common with each other. 

Coopetition has not been around for quite as long and it is a bit more complex. Coopetition is based on organisations which are typically competitors not only being able to identify what they might have in common but also possessing the maturity and skill sets  to do something about it, agreeing to pursue some common goals whilst still competing in other areas.  One recent example from our own industry is the AVANZA avocado consortium, where Global Fresh, Primor, Freshco and Team Avocado have joint forces to collectively grow the Japanese markets whilst going hammer and tongs at each other in Australia! 

 Back to the challenge of reaching $10 billion by 2020 then.  Here is how it will not happen: 

  • Sitting back and waiting for someone else to take the initiative
  • Being negative when someone else does take the initiative
  • Finding all the excuses in the world why someone else’s initiative can’t possibly work

  

We cannot afford to get it wrong!

  

The only way the industry can achieve its 10/2020 goal is by: 

  • Individual growers, packers and marketers and their organisations accepting responsibility for making a personal contribution towards achieving the goal
  • Positive thinking becoming the norm rather than being an exception all along the fresh produce value chain
  • ‘Outside the square’ thinking being an acceptable rather than a ridiculed approach to advancing our goals

  

This country is well known for its “can do” attitude. Even today, our number 8 wire mentality has the potential to get us further up the road towards success than we could logically perhaps expect to enjoy.  However, this approach is no longer sustainable. As an industry, we need to become more sophisticated, more techno-savvy, more customer centric, in short, more professional. We cannot get there and succeed with our strategy without scale – and we will not achieve scale without working together. 

Here is what we need – as seen at PMA 2010, Orlando

  

So, as you ponder the highlights of your individual 2010, please give some thought to how you could integrate the 10/2020 strategy into your business.  And if you are still short of a Christmas present or two – this book reminds the reader on every page how fascinating the horticulture/produce industry is , 365 days a year. 

On that note, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year. 

Dr Hans Maurer

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