United Fresh Technical Submissions

From time to time, various Parliamentary Select Committees, government departments, and associated agencies, may request information or submissions on areas of proposed or existing legislation and regulations that affect United Fresh members. These requests may cover one or more of the areas that Technical Advisory Group (TAG) has expertise in.

When a request is received, the TAG team assess whether it is in United Fresh’s interest to respond, with the final decision being made by the United Fresh General Manager.

Where a decision is made to respond, the TAG team provides the party requesting the information with the industry’s views of the impacts and consequences of the legislation or regulations being considered. This is in all cases done by way of formal written submissions.

In 2023, TAG has made submissions on behalf of United Fresh across multiple topics, to the following organisations:

Food and Beverage Industry Transformation Plan – Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

In March 2023, MPI released a Draft Plan for “adapting the [food & beverage] sector to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead”. This consultation was an opportunity for anyone with an interest in the future of New Zealand’s food and beverage sector to give feedback on whether MPI had identified the right approach – and the right actions – for sector transformation.

Given the impact a long-term transformation plan could have on the industry, United Fresh identified that it would be important to have our industry’s complexity better understood by MPI, and for the Transformation Plan to be developed in a manner that unlocks more value-add opportunities for the fresh produce value chain, while reducing the impact of wildly swinging price fluctuations, typically associated with horticultural commodities.

This consultation closed in March 2023. Given the declared intent of the new Government to stop work on the Industry Transformation Plans, it remains to be seen what occurs in this space.

Unit Pricing – Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

In May 2023, MBIE sought feedback on the draft of the Consumer Information Standards (Unit Pricing for Grocery Products) Regulations 2023, including any technical issues that may affect their workability and effectiveness.

This submission request related to the 2022 decision by Government to implement mandatory unit pricing for grocery products.

United Fresh responded to this consultation on the basis that if these regulations are crafted appropriately, the overall cost impact on industry would be lessened, and that clear & obvious wording will enable businesses to effectively comply.

Following the feedback from interested parties, MBIE made some further refinements to the regulations, before the regulations came into effect on 31 August 2023.

Grocery Code of Conduct – MBIE.

In July 2023, United Fresh submitted a response to MBIE on the Draft Grocery Code of Conduct Regulations.

The process around the Code of Conduct was almost three years in the making, starting with the “Market Study Into The Retail Grocery Sector” in 2020, through to a Final Report being released in March 2022.

Following the Final Report, MBIE opened consultations on a set of Grocery Code of Conduct regulations being developed.

United Fresh was of the view that the Grocery Code of Conduct, if developed appropriately, would help ensure a more level playing field for both retailers and suppliers, over the years to come.

Following the feedback from interested parties, MBIE made some further refinements, before the final Code of Conduct came into effect on 28 September 2023.

Review of the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme – Ministry for the Environment (MfE).

In August 2023, United Fresh responded to MfE’s request for submissions on its review of the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

Through the 2015 Paris Agreement, Aotearoa New Zealand committed to contributing to global efforts to limit the temperature increase rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, including legislation to reduce our domestic emissions.

This consultation aimed to identify whether the ETS legislation should prioritise gross emissions reductions, while maintaining support for removals as the preferred approach to Aotearoa New Zealand’s transition to a low-emissions, climate-resilient future.

While not growing trees, the fresh produce industry participates in the NZ ETS scheme by purchasing carbon credits. Our industry therefore faces the possibility of changes to the costs being incurred through the NZ ETS, as well as potentially having new regulations to follow. As such, it was in industry’s interest to ensure that the appropriate technical details of proposed changes were understood by industry, and to present our thoughts to MfE on the proposed changes being considered.

The new Government is still considering its next actions in this space.

Inquiry into climate adaptation – Parliamentary Select Committee on the Environment.

In October 2023, United Fresh responded to a call made in August for submissions from the Parliamentary Select Committee Inquiry into climate adaptation. This inquiry was looking at a variety of topics related to the impacts of climate change and climate change mitigation efforts, including:

  • Lessons learned from severe weather events and natural disasters.
  • The role of the private sector in managing climate risk.
  • Alignment and integration with existing legislation and regulatory framework.
  • Funding sources, access to them and principles and criteria for cost sharing
  • Targets or indicators for assessing progress to more resilient communities and infrastructure.

United Fresh agrees with the broad scope of Aotearoa New Zealand’s efforts in managing climate change, and believed that this inquiry will help Aotearoa New Zealand towards achieving the Government’s targets, while also helping drive New Zealand towards a sustainable future, by reducing the harm of climate change, and having active policies in place to prevent further harm from occurring at all.

Please note that the work programme of Parliamentary Select Committees at the Inquiry level continues even if an election has been called, Parliament has risen, and a change of Government may have occurred.

No progress in this space is expected until the new Parliamentary Select Committee on the Environment is confirmed, and the new Committee takes up its work.

In addition to these completed submissions, United Fresh is also working on two further submissions over the December and early January period, due in mid-January 2024:

Import requirements for frozen berries (MPI)

MPI is consulting on the proposed changes to the “Requirements for Registered Food Importers and Imported Food” related to frozen berries. New Zealand has had import controls for frozen berries since December 2015, for the purpose of managing potential food safety risks from pathogenic microorganisms, particularly hepatitis A.

In 2020, a work programme was started to improve knowledge of the microbiological food safety risks associated with frozen fruits and vegetables (including berries) and look at ways of strengthening the import controls for frozen berries, because of concerns raised regarding the safety of imported frozen berries.

As NZ imports frozen berries for ‘as fresh’ consumption, MPI has identified that, as a high-risk crop, the current Food Notice is insufficient to mitigate that particular food borne illness risk pathway.

Following this research, MPI is now proposing to increase the requirements for imported frozen berries, as research has confirmed that imported frozen berries that are ready-to-eat continue to present a significant or increased food safety risk to New Zealand consumers.

United Fresh is working on its response to MPI, to ensure that appropriate regulations are developed, that strike the right balance between food safety, and the ability to continue to import frozen berries.

United Fresh has chosen to submit on this topic, as consumers often perceive berries consumed in the ‘as fresh’ category, but in reality being frozen imports, to originate in New Zealand.

Grocery Dispute Resolution Scheme – New Zealand Dispute Resolution Centre (NZDRC)

The Grocery Supply Code 2023 (Grocery Supply Code) amendments to the Grocery Industry Competition Act 2023 (the Act) came into force on 28 September 2023.

Within the MBIE structure, the Government Centre for Dispute Resolution (GCDR) provides leadership and stewardship to support a systems-based, best practice approach to dispute resolution in New Zealand.

On 11 October 2023, the (then) Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs named NZDRC[1] as the independent provider for dispute resolution services under the Act.

NZDRC is a commercial entity, appointed to act as independent mediators and adjudicators for the Grocery Code.

NZDRC should not be confused with the GCDR[2]!

NZDRC adjudication and mediation activities will comply with the GCDR dispute resolution principles[3], with the exact nature of the Rules for Grocery Code of Conduct dispute resolution being the subject of the present consultation.

The Rules are designed to assist in meeting the purpose of the Act, which is to “promote competition and efficiency in the grocery industry for the long-term benefit of consumers in New Zealand”.

As fresh produce is a grocery product which will be covered by these new rules, it is important that our industry’s complexity and product range is well represented by appropriate dispute resolution rules, and that the realities of our perishable product is understood when a dispute is raised. United Fresh is therefore developing a response to this topic, and will continue to engage on this topic as it evolves.

Links to referenced documents:

1. https://nzdrc.co.nz/about-us/

2. https://www.mbie.govt.nz/cross-government-functions/government-centre-for-dispute-resolution/

3. https://www.mbie.govt.nz/cross-government-functions/government-centre-for-dispute-resolution/dispute-resolution-tools-and-resources/aotearoa-best-practice-dispute-resolution-framework/