4 Nov 2013

Stone-fruit growers deciding on levy

1:48 pm on 4 November 2013

Cherry, apricot and other stone-fruit growers will decide this month whether to continue paying a levy to industry body Summerfruit New Zealand.

Cherry growers pay 1% of their crop earnings at first point of sale and apricot, peach, nectarine and plum growers pay a 1.5% charge.

The commodity levy supports research and other industry projects and growers are voting on whether to renewing it for another six years.

Summerfruit New Zealand chief executive Marie Dawkins says it's been consulting with growers since May and there appears to be strong support for renewing the compulsory funding.

Ms Dawkins said the levy brought in $920,000 last year largely driven by good returns from cherry exports.

It is funding projects including developmental work on export markets, improving quality in the New Zealand market, and biosecurity projects.

"We're also looking at developing a couple of co-operatives which will be used as vehicles for the release of varieties coming out of our breeding programmes."

Ms Dawkins says the biggest challenge may be getting growers to participate in the vote and this year an online voting system is being used in an attempt to increase the traditional 25% - 30% response rate.

Renewal of the levy requires approval from a majority of those who vote, both on an individual and crop value basis. Voting on the summerfruit levy closes at the end of the month.