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Asian Seed Congress an overwhelming success

Asian Seed Congress an overwhelming success
Ministry for Primary Industries chief departmental science adviser director Dr. John Roche, NGSTA president Charlotte Connoley, APSA president Dr. Manish Patel and Christchurch mayor Phil Mauger water trees to symbolise the opening of the Asian Seed Congress SUPPLIED

New Zealand has successfully hosted one of the seed industry's biggest global conferences.

The 2023 Asian Seed Congress was held at Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre on November 20-24, the first time New Zealand has hosted the annual event in its 28-year history.

The Congress saw over 1000 delegates from around the globe attend the Congress for business meetings, entertainment, trade exhibitions, technical sessions, and farm tours through Mid and North Canterbury.

The Congress is organised by the Asia and Pacific Seed Alliance (APSA), with the New Zealand Grain and Seed Trade Association (NZGSTA) steering the National Organising Committee with the Ministry for Primary Industries.

NGSTA general manager Thomas Chin describes the event as an "overwhelming success".

"It was an opportunity to showcase and profile the New Zealand seed industry to customers and prospective new customers.

"It sent a strong message to people in those markets that New Zealand is ready and able to produce seed at a high quality, trust and reliability level.

"It was an opportunity for New Zealand seed companies to reconnect with customers after COVID and look for new opportunities to sell more seed into Asia and further afield."

The Congress was the largest seed event ever to be held in New Zealand and the largest convention to be held at Te Pae, with the broadest reach of delegates from around 30 countries from around the world.

Chin said the Congress was an opportunity to not only show case New Zealand’s seed industry, but also the country as a whole.

Delegates visting Sam and Jo Spencer-Bowers dairy farm in Eyrewell as part of one of four farm tours around Mid and North Canterbury. Credit Claire Inkson

“We are not in the tourism business, but we definitely wanted to introduce these delegates to New Zealand, and the  point was to give them a ‘wow’ event and something that was memorable for them.”

Chin said he has had positive feedback from delegates, with many saying they are planning to return to New Zealand again.

“Not only that, but people were staying on post-conference to get out and about and see the countryside.

“It’s not just about selling New Zealand seed, but selling New Zealand.”

'Godfathers' of the New Zealand vegetable seed industry recognised

Two Mid Cantabrians have been recognised for their contribution to the New Zealand seed industry at the Congress gala dinner.

John McKay, managing director of South Pacific Seeds in Methven, and the late Ross Smith, from Smiths Seeds in Ashburton, received the 2023 APSA Awards.

Thomas Chin describes Mckay and Smith as the "godfathers of the vegetable seed export business to Asia".

"These two gentlemen were instrumental to the development of the export trade to all parts of Asia, so much so that their peers acknowledged them.

"They have put New Zealand seed exports to Asia on the map.

"It's a tremendous effort on their part."

Mckay said he wasn't expecting to win the award and that working with businesses in Asia had been an "absolute pleasure".

"I grew up on a farm in Methven, and if I hadn't had the chance to start in this business, I would have been on the farm all my life.

"And now I've had this wonderful opportunity to meet and work with these people; it's been amazing."

McKay joined South Pacific Seeds in 1991, growing the business to be the largest production company for vegetable seeds.

McKay is regarded as instrumental in establishing the hybrid vegetable seed production industry into New Zealand crop farming systems.

McKay also served several years as an industry advisory member of the Seed Industry Research Centre at Lincoln University, which has grown to be at the forefront of seed industry research in New Zealand.

Smith, who passed away in July last year, received the award posthumously.

His son, Grant Smith, accepted the award on his behalf.

Smith says the award for his father was "well-deserved".

"It's recognition of the work he's put in over many, many years not only in our company, Smiths Seeds but in his working life previous to that, before we started our own company."

Ross Smith founded Smiths Seeds in Ashburton in 1990 with sons Grant and Michael after spending the early part of his career developing seed exports for companies such as Pyne Gould Guinness and Elders.

Smith was responsible for introducing Asian vegetable production into New Zealand after bringing brassica seeds back from Thailand in 1980.

Smith also served as president of the NZGSTA during the 1980s and, during his tenure, championed the bid for the 1987 FIS Congress to be held in Christchurch.

This resulted in delegates from around the globe visiting New Zealand and showcasing local seed expertise.

by Claire Inkson