The Government is backing a new $27 million project aimed at boosting sustainable horticulture production and Covid-19 recovery efforts, said Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor.

"Our horticulture sector has long been one of New Zealand's export star performers, contributing around $6 billion a year".

"During and post lockdown they've become a lifeline for a number of redeployed workers from industries such as tourism, forestry and hospitality," he said.

"Our growers and producers will play a critical role in our economic recovery."


This was why Budget 2020 "committed $38.5m to help the sector seize further opportunities for future growth. This adds to that investment".

O'Connor said the collaboration between government and industry aimed to create new growing methods and crop protection measures that reduce chemical use, and spur greater production.

"We have a great story to tell because our growers are among the most efficient and sustainable in the world. There is an opportunity for New Zealand to become the world's preferred supplier of plant-based food products."

Horticulture New Zealand Chief Executive Mike Chapman said the importance of biological methods and increasing production was reflected in the investment from the different sectors.

"Our growers want to take greater care of the environment but there are only a few viable options for pest and disease control".

"This is why this project is so critical. It will speed up development of agro-ecological crop protection techniques that are environmentally sound and effective".

Zespri's Chief Innovation and Sustainability Officer Carol Ward said developing more sustainable crop protection practices was a key focus for Zespri, which had invested significantly in the research and the development of biopesticides and cultural control practices.