Supermarkets shouldn't be seen as villians when it comes to competition and returns in the retail sector, says former Horticulture NZ chief executive Mike Chapman.
In a letter to members of the industry-good organisation, Nadine Tunley says horticulturalists work incredibly hard, often under very trying conditions.
She says, at the moment, there are just too many things being asked of growers.
"My plea is that we take a breath, and industry and the Government work together on how we keep all of our businesses contributing to New Zealand's social and economic recovery," Tunley says.
"My impression is that the Government does not understand the depth of our industry's problems."
She says that mental health is of deep concern to New Zealanders at the moment and the horticulture industry is no exception.
"However, my concern is the Government's lack of any real understanding about what is involved in growing and providing food for domestic consumption and export, in a post-Covid world," Tunley adds.
"I have been hearing for months that horticulture will be NZ's saviour in terms of economic recovery, as well as in terms of significantly assisting with climate change mitigation for our protein-based colleagues. At a very basic level, horticulture and its success are determined by a well-balanced supply and demand requirement, solid central and local government policies, significant levels of capital investment, and good supply chain facilities, from field to fork."
However, Tunley adds that horticulture is a far more labour-intensive product to produce than NZ's other protein producing counterparts. She says technology and automation are still very limited in most areas of horticulture, but notes that if it were a more advanced and genuine solution, growers would be using it without question.
"The irony is that we are being asked to provide employment for New Zealanders. The areas of our industry where this is most possible are the areas we will automate first because current policy is forcing us to do this," Tunley says. "Once those jobs are automated, they will never come back."