United Fresh, Aotearoa’s pan produce industry organisation, is set to lead a United Nations Independent Dialogue as part of the UN’s global initiative the Food Systems Summit (UNFSS).
United Fresh will host the Dialogue ‘The Future for Fruit & Vegetable Kai Systems in Aotearoa’, contributing a vital local viewpoint to an international discussion on the future of food systems.
Jerry Prendergast, President of United Fresh, says that while this is a global project, with Dialogues occurring on every continent, the UN emphasises the importance of local solutions.
“While Aotearoa is a country with great growing conditions, vulnerable families are increasingly unable to access the recommended 5+ A Day servings of fresh fruit and vegetables,” says Prendergast.
“Our current supply systems are not always an option for those living in poverty. Many rely on food banks and church-based charities to put essential foods on their table. It’s important that we examine our whole food system to address these inequity issues and ensure the health and wellbeing of all Kiwis,” he says.
The COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 saw all food retail outlets other than supermarkets and dairies being closed which highlighted the vulnerability of our produce food systems. Prendergast notes that food systems are important to all of us, whether we live in developing nations, or in developed countries, such as Aotearoa.
“We all have to eat, and we are all reliant upon sustainable and safe food production, because if we do not achieve this, the planet will not thank us for it, and nor will our health.
“We also expect that the processes by which we access food have a degree of robustness, work for us 24/7, 365 days of the year, and deliver us enough food to nourish and sustain ourselves. Some food systems do just that, while others have yet to achieve these objectives,” he says.
The Independent Dialogue will address a range of issues beyond food insecurity. The role of Māori in the $6 billion horticulture industry will also be in the spotlight, with discussions lead by Dr Nick Roskruge, Chair of Tāhuri Whenua – The National Māori Vegetable Growers Collective. The importance of Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi) and its principles of partnership, participation and protection will be a key part of the Dialogue.
Challenges such as climate change, water fluctuations, labour shortages and the spread of urban areas into traditional growing regions are also on the agenda.
Convenor of the event is Dr Hans Maurer, Knowledge Officer and Technical Advisory Group Chair for United Fresh who specialises in improving the ways in which our fresh fruit and vegetables are delivered from the farm to the table. Dr Maurer is also the Vice-Chair of the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS), which works to improve supply chains for fresh produce worldwide.
“As a nation, we pride ourselves on our ability and achievements as a niche producer and exporter of quality primary food products, including fresh produce. The quality of our product is appreciated and respected wherever it is consumed around the world,” says Dr Maurer.
“The issue for us is the need for our food systems to be compatible with, and integrate into, other nations’ food systems, in order for our growers and produce marketers to be able to maintain and expand their markets.
“As a country, Aotearoa New Zealand needs to achieve a balance between the need of its entire population when it comes to effective and efficient fresh produce systems, and the significant export opportunities that exist in key crops,” says Dr Maurer.