‘Multiple crop options’
Sweetcorn growers affected by Cedenco Foods’ decision to close its frozen corn operation have multiple options in the short, medium and long term, says company managing director Tim Chrisp.
The food processor company has decided to close one of its four Gisborne processing lines — the Individually Quick Frozen facility — in early April when the harvest ends.
The IQF has operated on the site since 2001 and its closure will directly affect the jobs of 13 people.
In the short term, the move will reduce the amount of corn crop grown for processing by around 50 percent.
“We have procured approximately 1700 hectares of sweetcorn per annum for the IQF processing operations and that will now discontinue,” Mr Chrisp said.
“These areas were grown by contract farmers and our own Cedenco farming division, most of it around Wairoa and Tolaga Bay, with much smaller areas in Nuhaka, Ruatoria and on the Poverty Bay Flats.
“Plantings for sweetcorn powder have now reached 860 hectares and have been growing steadily year by year,” he said.
“This area has been grown by contract farmers on the Poverty Bay Flats and with partners in Tolaga Bay and Wairoa.
“We forecast the area of planting needed to meet our powder production needs to increase by 10 percent per annum as we expand our powder facility.
“In the meantime, growers have multiple crop options, including the significant growth in permanent cropping, where there is water available.”
Mr Chrisp said sweetcorn had been a highly beneficial crop to local farmers as a rotational crop to maintain soil health, especially for the large vegetable farmers growing such crops as tomatoes, squash and salad vegetables.
“For growers supplying Cedenco, some of the area will be taken up with squash production for processing, which has more than doubled since our new factory was built in 2015.
“Other areas no longer needed for corn production will likely be taken up by maize and grazing in the near future,” he said.
“In the medium term, we expect the arable cropping landscape to change as Cedenco and other companies develop new products which are more sustainable throughout the supply chain,” he said.
“We don’t think it will take very long for the vacuum to be filled.
“Cedenco is working with key partners in the development of plant milks and plant protein products, and we think these types of land use will provide options for growers in the longer-term future.”
Mr Chrisp said the company was extremely grateful for the support received from its sweetcorn growers across the last two decades.
“We have had to work our way through floods and droughts and changing market requirements.
“The current situation, where we are faced with labour shortages and significant environmental constraints, especially in food processing, is just another set of circumstances to navigate together.”