Editorial: Another underarm Oz beet up

By Andrew Austin

I'm rooting for our beetroot.

This newspaper's lead story today focuses on allegations by Australian millionaire Dick Smith that Hawke's Bay beetroot is "poor quality".

Mr Smith makes the claim on the label of his Smith's Magnificent Sliced Beetroot and is now being threatened with legal action by Heinz Australia.

"When American-owned Heinz decided to move its beetroot processing facility from Australia to New Zealand causing hundreds of lost jobs, we decided enough is enough," the label says. "So we are fighting back against poor quality imported product."

I cannot remember eating beetroot specifically marked as being from Australia, but I don't have to have done so to be able to say that statement is wrong.

Those of us lucky enough to live in the paradise known as Hawke's Bay know that we grow some of the finest quality produce to come out of the ground.

I still remember when I first moved to Hawke's Bay how I used to marvel at the crispness of the local lettuces compared with the fare on offer in Auckland, where I lived for a decade. I believe the fruit and vegetables here seem bigger, are fresher and, importantly, are cheaper. Therefore, I have to disagree with Mr Smith and can only echo what local grower Mark Apatu says: "Our beetroot is fantastic".

"We have been growing beetroot for 35 years - our quality and yield is world class and our flavours are magnificent," he said.

All I can say is that this seems like underarm tactics from the Australians yet again. But people can taste our beetroot and judge for themselves.

C'mon, the Bay.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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