Masterton Vegetable Seeds. PHOTO/GIANINA SCHWANECKE

GIANINA SCHWANECKE
gianina.schwanecke@age.co.nz

With news of a seed processing plant expansion in Masterton and with the pea weevil ban finally lifted from the region, there’s much to celebrate for arable growers in Wairarapa.

PGG Wrightson Seeds on Wednesday announced the expansion of its seed processing operations having entered into a long-term agreement to lease the site and equipment from property owners Masterton Vegetable Seeds on Akura Rd.

Masterton Vegetable Seeds was forced to suspend its operation in December 2018 after a pea growing ban was enforced to stop the spread of pea weevil, significantly reducing output.

Managing director Percy McFadzean was delighted the plant would be operational again.

“It really confirms business confidence in the region,” he said.

PGG Wrightson Seeds chief executive John McKenzie said operations would be relocated from its existing operation on Ngaumutawa Rd to the new site.

He said while much of the country’s seed production came from the South Island, it was important to have a strong, resilient base in the North Island to improve the supply chain.

“For us, an investment in processing is really an investment in our customers and in arable growers.

“As the largest grass and vegetable seed producing region in the North Island, Wairarapa is the logical base for that.

“Processing is just one part of the seed supply chain, so having a strong local grower base is crucial.

“We’re excited about the prospect of giving arable growers local capacity to process their seed.”

He said the development of Wairarapa Water Ltd and reliability that irrigation brought would allow for better seed crops to be produced and this was also of interest.

“This move effectively doubles the size of our operation in Masterton, with capacity for further expansion in the future.

The investment relies on us processing third-party crops in addition to crops we contract ourselves and we look forward to working with interested parties to make that happen.

“We hope to complete the move from our existing site over the winter and to be fully operational from the new site by the spring.”

PGG Wrightson Seeds employs five staff but was expected to increase this by three to four people as it grows into the new facility.

Gladstone farmer and Federated Farmers national arable chairwoman Karen Williams said she was delighted by the announcement.

The plant is important for processing, drying, and seed treatments to prevent issues like fungus, she said.

“All of the grass and vegetable seeds can go there and have that happen before being sent to market.

“If we had to transport them outside of the region to do that, it wouldn’t be as viable.”

Like McKenzie, she said it was important for Wairarapa to be resilient and separate from the Canterbury operations in case of another biosecurity blight.

It was also exciting that an international company like PGG Wrightson had made a commitment to the region, she said.

“It’s a huge scale international company recognising the value in our area.”

She said the pea weevil incursion had prompted Wairarapa growers to diversify and look at other crops like vegetable seeds, hybrid onions, and rye grass.