Kiwis Nuts About Local Vegetables - Survey

Most Kiwis want to buy New Zealand fruit and vegetables and believe every item should carry a label showing country of origin, a survey has found.

The joint Horticulture New Zealand and Consumer NZ survey found 71 percent of New Zealanders wanted country of origin labelling on fresh, tinned and frozen fruit and vegies and 70 percent wanted to buy homegrown.

"Four out of five people buy fresh fruit and vegetables at least once a week, and most of them support mandatory country of origin labelling," Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says.

Currently, New Zealand law does not require fruit and vegetables to be labelled with their country of origin, but a bill proposing changes is expected to have its first reading in April.

The Green Party on Thursday called for cross-party support on its member's bill seeking to make it mandatory for producers to label fresh or single-ingredient products with their country of origin.

"The current voluntary labelling system is just that - voluntary - which means there's no monitoring or enforcement," Steffan Browning said.

"New Zealanders have a right to know where their food comes from and to make an informed choice when they buy. It's time to make that a reality."

Other countries, including Australia, have already introduced mandatory labelling laws.

But Prime Minister Bill English said customer preference was already driving change in the food industry.

"My understanding is in our supermarkets around 70 to 80 percent of the relevant products are now labelled, so it's most of the way there," he said.

"We just don't see the need to. The food industry's responding to consumers now wanting to know the country of origin, but also everything else about their food."

Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin said 65 percent of Kiwis already looked for labelling on fresh fruit, but most found it hard to find.

According to Horticulture New Zealand research, 17 of 81 fruit and vegetable products had "vague" statements the product was made or packed in New Zealand or packed in New Zealand from imported ingredients.

"This means it was impossible to tell from the label where the food came from," the group said.

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