Over the past two years NZPPI has given considerable focus to the plant imports crisis.
In this time the NZPPI Board has met with Ministers and officials to highlight the issues and advocate for change, while the NZPPI team has been working with MPI to wind back the decline of the system.
Last year, NZPPI’s members held a series of workshops and meetings, including a significant government / industry event in Wellington in August 2019. This led to a programme of work that includes 11 separate projects intended to make improvements to the system.
This has been tough going, but over the past few months there has been significant progress. We have seen a change in attitude from the horticulture sector, who realise that plant imports are beneficial and MPI are far more open to solutions than they were in the past.
This is progress that we should recognise and celebrate. There is a long way to go, but we have many reasons to be optimistic.
2020 budget: $38.5 million to transform plant imports
The 2020 budget includes an allocation of $38.5 million to transform the plant imports system. This funding will be spent on new staff, better tools and to add more quarantine space at MPI’s Tamaki campus.
Removing these constraints will hopefully enable the importation of a wider range of material, while improving biosecurity at the same time.
The operating model for the Germplasm Advisory Committee (GERMAC) has been reviewed, following widespread feedback that it was ineffective.
NZPPI supports a new model that has a strategic focus that views plant imports creating value for NZ, not just focussing on risk. A separate operations group will focus on day to day issues.
GERMAC is provided by MPI, so any decision to change its structure will need their support. We hope to hear their views shortly.
Plant Import Recovery projects
NZ Plant Producers is actively involved in four of the 11 Plant Import Recovery projects, including the review of GERMAC, and good progress is being made.
We have recommended additional criteria for MPI to use as it determines the priority of import health standards for review and development. To date, Import Health Standard review and development has tended to focus on plant species with export revenues to the exclusion of innovative new species which could be tomorrow’s big breakthrough crop, or species in retail demand by the New Zealand public. IHS development is funded by the taxpayer so the broadest cross-section of society should benefit from this work.
IHS review and development is a slow, resource-intensive process. One of the Plant Import Recovery projects is focused on opportunities to use quicker processes for lower-risk assessments and ways to increase the capacity of the system by using capable people external to MPI to do some of the work. A series of recommendations will be presented to MPI at the end of June.
NZ Plant Producers has advocated for Import standard fixes to make immediate improvements to import rules, including the removal of mandatory pelleted-seed testing for ornamental flower and greenhouse varieties, allowing exporter-importer ‘non-GMO’ declarations for petunia seeds and nursery stock, and improving wording of requirements for import documentation. Further improvements are being sought.