Birthday celebrations were held earlier this week for United Fresh, Aotearoa’s pan produce industry organisation, which represents more than 90 members covering the entire value chain.
The organisation was incorporated in 1991, when it brought together for the first time representatives from the entire fruit and vegetable value chain, who contribute to the country’s $6 billion fresh produce industry.
Celebrating 31 years of operation, United Fresh continues to grow its membership base due to industry-wide cooperation and collective resourcing advantages.
United Fresh President, Jerry Prendergast, says the organisation’s drive for continuous improvement has seen it evolve through ever-changing industry issues over the three decades.
“From seed to table, it’s amazing to see the new ideas and innovations from our sector change and develop through many different challenges. But, if anything, the last few years have reminded us just how vital fresh fruit and vegetables are for health and well-being and how fortunate we are to live in a country whose climate and soils enable us to grow more than enough to feed us all,” he says.
“We’re a primary industry responsible for supplying essential nutrients every Kiwi needs to survive. That’s a responsibility we take very seriously,” says Prendergast.
United Fresh General Manager, Paula Dudley, notes the milestone celebrations for United Fresh were scheduled for 2021 - their 30th birthday - but COVID-19 restrictions prevented a formal gathering.
“We’re excited to share this commemoration of over 30 years of advocating for our members. We’re committed to continuing our mahi towards a fresh fruit and vegetable industry that is united and connected, an industry that puts healthy kai on plates here at home and around the world,” says Dudley.
That commitment was reflected in United Fresh receiving the Primary Industries NZ Summit Team Award for delivering 300,000 boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables to whānau during the COVID-19 lockdown.
“The award was a testament to the long-term relationships between United Fresh members and the professionalism of the food distribution centres we worked alongside,” she says.
“The networks we have had for many years enabled us to work quickly and efficiently to ensure fresh produce didn’t go to waste and whānau struggling in isolation had a way to put healthy food on their tables,” says Dudley.
A significant part of United Fresh’s work was establishing the 5+ A Day concept in New Zealand in 1994, followed in 2004 by the Fruit and Vegetables In Schools initiative.
“Our commitment to encouraging every Kiwi to eat at least five or more servings of colourful, fresh vegetables and two servings of fruit daily for health and vitality remains unchanged. This year through FIS, we delivered nutritious, locally grown produce to a record 566 schools around Aotearoa, benefitting over 120,000 tamariki and kaiako,” she says.
United Fresh is also involved in conducting large industry projects that will shape the future of horticulture both here and around the world.
“Our UF Technical Advisory Group (TAG) works behind the scenes on technical projects and resources important to our members, such as biosecurity, food safety, traceability and sustainability,” says Prendergast.
“We also work alongside several international cohorts such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the Global Coalition of Fresh Produce. Aotearoa might seem like a small country on the world stage, but our expertise in horticulture is world-class, and we’re proud to share it to help other nations feed their whānau,” says Prendergast.