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New Zealand: NZGAP celebrates 25th anniversary

New Zealand Good Agricultural Practice (NZGAP) celebrates 25 years of providing consumers with an assurance that certified fruit and vegetables are produced safely and sustainably. An event involving founders, growers, retailers, wholesalers, auditors, regulators, product groups, district associations, HortNZ representatives, and current and former NZGAP committee members/managers was held in Wellington on 23 April to recognize the achievement.

Mike Butterick (Wairarapa MP), who spoke at the event, stated "Our industry is a collective of great farmers and growers, with quality products to share with the world. We need easy, effective verification systems to make sure global consumers know just how good we are at our job. "NZGAP puts significant effort into simplifying how growers are able to meet both market and regulatory requirements. Part of our role as government is to solve problems not to create them.

"Minimising complexity makes sense to me, and I look forward to seeing more simplification and further red tape reduction. This Government has already made changes that support New Zealand food producers and I look forward to seeing even more over the months ahead. Launched in 1999, the trusted NZGAP certificate enables growers to demonstrate a commitment to quality and meet the expectations of regulators and millions of customers around the world.

Owned by HortNZ and led by growers for growers, the program provides fruit and vegetable growers with a credible assurance framework so they can meet supermarket and regulatory obligations, achieving both market access and compliance with regulations via one integrated system.

Damien Farrelly, NZGAP Manager, says over the past 25 years, NZGAP has evolved significantly to offer a comprehensive range of programs and certification options covering different issues and market requirements. "Globally consumers are increasingly concerned about the origin and safety of their food. They expect safe and sustainable farming practices, as well as protecting the welfare of workers. NZGAP-certified producers can demonstrate their commitment and ability to meet these expectations.

"Our purpose is to provide simplified, cost-effective, and integrated assurance in New Zealand horticulture that is trusted and valued. The compliance landscape is complicated. In many cases, different customers are asking for the same things in different ways. This means growers supplying multiple markets may need to demonstrate how they meet these requirements separately for each market." The same applies to regulation where each one is generally implemented independently of the others even if they cover the same topic.

NZGAP's integrated assurance system was established to provide a simplified and cost-effective certification pathway that meets multiple requirements with one auditor up the drive."That would mean a lot of audits, duplication, frustration, and confusion for everyone. The function of NZGAP is to pull relevant requirements together under one system, with a robust auditing framework ensuring numerous stakeholders can have confidence that operators are meeting all the relevant requirements for food safety, environmental sustainability, and social practice.

"It is fundamentally about protecting growers' social license to operate, and NZGAP enables that both at an individual and sector level. "We're encouraging even more collaboration and engagement in this space to help set NZGAP and our growers up for success." Mr. Farrelly said major developments to the scheme over the years have enabled key achievements including GLOBALG.A.P. equivalency, Food Act recognition, development of a certification program for contractors, plus the launch of the Social Practice and Environmental Management System (EMS) modules.

"NZGAP empowers growers to meet multiple regulatory and customer requirements in a single audit and certification, which greatly reduces the overall compliance burden and cost. "The NZGAP team works continuously to evolve the program to align grower practices with regulatory and market requirements as well as the latest best practice guidelines.

"We have a lot going on. The increase in compliance requirements is immense from all angles, including from regulators and from the marketplace. "We are working to pull everything together into a more integrated program while simplifying it for the user. We are seeking a more optimal level of recognition with regulators, including a full recognition of our Environment Management System (EMS) under Freshwater Farm Plan regulations.

"Minister Todd McClay and Minister Andrew Hoggard have recently said that officials are looking at ways to integrate existing industry assurance programs into the Freshwater Farm Plan System. "This is great news for horticulture. We want to see recognition of programs like the NZGAP Environment Management System, which is trusted, robust, and meets the desired policy outcomes."


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