'Conspicuous' absence: Countdown Head of Sustainability no-show at Silver Fern Farms Conference

'Conspicuous' absence: Countdown Head of Sustainability no-show at Silver Fern Farms Conference

Silver Fern Farms recently held their annual plate-to-pasture Conference in Christchurch and Carter's brand Ambassador Richard Loe was in attendance.

Loe told REX host Dominic George the absence of Countdown's Head of Sustainability was rather 'conspicuous' given their recently launched pilot program requiring suppliers, including milk and meat producers to measure and report their carbon emissions in an effort to reduce the supermarket giant's footprint.

"Apparently the plane was delayed, or something," he said.

A number of different companies did send their Managers of Sustainability to the conference including Genesis, Sanford Industries and New Zealand Post.

Groundswell NZ co-founder Bryce McKenzie called for a boycott of the Woolworths Group subsidiary and said "We, the producers of New Zealand, have had enough," in a press release following the announcement last week.

Loe supports the idea and believes the sentiment would be echoed by most producers and growers in New Zealand.

"All the attendees, the farmers there wouldn't mind going along with that I think.

"I will definitely do that for Groundswell."

With what seems to be ever-increasingly strict emissions policies placed on farmers, he can't understand why big corporates should be able to put even more restrictions on independent producers and growers whose livelihoods are dependent on the success of their farming exports.

"Why don't they take a bit of responsibility for their carbon footprint?"

Despite the recent announcement from Countdown surrounding their carbon footprint creating some friction between growers and producers, Loe told George they weren't the only business struggling to reduce its carbon footprint without losing out on productivity.

In particular, he said NZ Post, who are extremely restricted in the nature of their business in how they can reduce their carbon footprint, are taking responsibility for their own environmental emissions through innovation.

"How do you get them (a parcel) there quickly? Plane. Big carbon footprint. They're picked up by a big truck, with a big carbon footprint. 

"They are trialling a hydrogen truck, but that's very very expensive. They are trying to get their contractors that deliver the parcels into electric vehicles and electric vans but the electric vans are hugely more expensive than a diesel van that can do 300,000 - 400,000 kilometres."

He questioned why the agriculture industry, which is worth over $56 billion dollars and exports over 90% of produce seems to receive such little support when it comes to legislation that seems to only be hindering kiwi producers instead of allowing them to thrive.

Loe referenced a recent story where a Kiwi in the UK identified a bag of New Zealand-grown onions on sale for 95p (£0.95) per kilogram, or NZ$1.96 in a Tesco. In comparison, the same onions were priced at $2.99 per kilogram at Countdown and $2.49 at Pak'n Save in New Zealand.

"Why can you buy New Zealand onions cheaper in London than you can at your local supermarket?

"They (Tesco) are buying shiploads so they get them at a cheaper price, that's just business. But you go through this, how is Silver Fern Farms going to make that extra dollar for the Kiwi farmer?"

Listen to the full chat between Carter's brand Ambassador Richard Loe and Dominic George above.

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