The real price of vegetables

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Extremely wet conditions have made it very difficult to grow vegetables in the past few weeks, especially leafy greens. Gardens are under water, plants have been destroyed by the constant rain and, until it stops raining, the plants will not be able to grow. It is also difficult to harvest root vegetables, such as potatoes, due to wet soil conditions making it difficult to get tractors and machinery into the gardens.

When there is a shortage of supply, prices go up. Equally it is true when there is plentiful supply or weak demand, prices go down. What we are experiencing now is that shortage of supply, the prime cause of which is the consistent rain the country is experiencing. But there are underlying causes that need to be addressed, or high priced vegetables will become the norm.

For New Zealand to be able to feed itself at reasonable cost, we need to preserve our high quality land for growing vegetables and fruit. The spread of new houses taking away land where we grow will have consequences for New Zealand, and we will end up consistently paying more for fresh vegetables. We will also need to import vegetables to make up for these newfound shortfalls.

At Horticulture New Zealand, we have proposed that the Government develop a food security policy that looks to the future and addresses these concerns, so we can purchase fresh vegetables and fruit at reasonable prices, grown locally, to ensure healthy food for all forever (Horticulture New Zealand’s vision). This is not a region-by-region issue, but a national issue that needs to be addressed by central government. As the impacts of climate change and more adverse weather conditions – winds and rains – make growing vegetables more difficult, we need to ensure that the best land is used, to ensure continued and consistent local supply. 

So the real price of fresh vegetables comes down to the Government acting to ensure that our best growing land stays with food, not houses.

Mike Chapman, CEO Horticulture New Zealand