Kiwifruit growers have given their levy body the thumbs-up to continue in its role, with the latest levy referendum recording 54% of growers turning out to vote on New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated’s future.
The turnout by growers is a lift from the levy vote in 2017, when 49% growers turned out.
Of those voting, the vast majority – at 91% – voted in favour of keeping the industry levy in place, with the voter turnout representing 68% of total production.
The 54% turnout figure compares favourably to other sector groups’ voter turnout. Dairy NZ reported a 57% turnout from DairyNZ levy payers in 2020, and 35% turned out for Beef + Lamb NZ in 2021.
New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers’ Incorporated (NZKGI) is proposing to keep the 1.1c a tray levy charge unchanged, with the option to increase it to 1.5c a tray if required in the future.
NZKGI chair Mark Mayston said the result and turnout were especially pleasing, given that adverse weather and the harvest have put growers under the pump.
“The kiwifruit industry is experiencing a challenging time with increased regulations and pressure across the whole supply chain,” Mayston said.
Zespri has been grappling with quality issues from last year’s crop and has launched a wholesale review of its quality processes, from orchard to export. It has come under some stinging fire from the organisation for its failure to adequately estimate the full impact of the quality issues on growers’ payouts.
NZKGI fired off a stinging letter to Zespri’s executive, calling for greater transparency and improved grower communications. Zespri has since had a roadshow explaining the losses to growers, a move NZKGI has welcomed.
Kiwifruit growers first voted to establish a kiwifruit commodity levy to fund the operation of NZKGI in 2011.
Since that time, the organization has advocated for growers in national and local government decision-making, succession planning for the industry, promotion of seasonal jobs, representation of the industry at an international level and communication to growers on business-critical issues.
The next levy vote will be held in six years’ time.