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The Horticulture Industry Influence on New Zealand’s National Identity

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Society
Wordcount: 3373 words Published: 18th May 2020

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This essay will use Pierre Bourdieu’stheory, particularly the concepts of capital and habitus, to examine how individuals form their national identity.  How the New Zealand horticultural industry influences the formation of this identity will also be explored and how the kiwifruit has contributed to this identity.  Kiwifruit will be used as an example of one product from the horticultural industry because it is a main commodity of New Zealand and represents one of New Zealand’s largest horticultural exports.  Overall the argument will be made that the horticultural industry in New Zealand contributes greatly to the countries national identity. 

Theory One:

Pierre Bourdieu developed a theory of the action, around the concept of habitus, which was a considerable influence on the social sciences.  His theory criticizes the importance given to economic factors in the analysis of social order and change (Jenkins, 2014).  Instead he emphasizes that the capacity of people to impose their cultural reproductions and symbolic systems plays an essential role in the reproduction of dominant social structure.  The theory that provides an explanation of the social agents develop strategies which are adapted to the needs of the social worlds that they inhabit (Food and Eating 2019 Lectures). 

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Bourdieu defines capital as sums of money or assets put to productive use.  Bourdieu’s theory regarding social capital contains four different types of capital; economic, social, cultural and symbolic.  Bourdieu defines capital as sums of money or assets put to productive use (Bourdieu, 1986).  Assets may take numerous forms including economic, social, cultural and symbolic.  Economic capital to Bourdieu is directly convertible into money, referring to economic resources such as cash, or may be institutionalized into the forms of property rights.  Symbolic capital refers to a degree of accumulated prestige or integrity and is found on a debate of knowledge and recognition.  Cultural capital is defined as the collection of patterns, knowledge, skills, behaviours and awards, that demonstrate a person’s cultural experience and their social status or standing in society.  Finally, Bourdieu’s social capital is seemed as a property of an individual rather than a group.  For Bourdieu’s social capital is not regularly available to a group but to those who provide efforts to obtain it by achieving positions of power and status by developing goodwill (Bourdieu, 1986).

Bourdieu’s theory also focuses heavily on the concept of habitus.  This refers to the physical embodiment of cultural capital, to the deeply ingrained habits, skills and dispositions that we possess due to our life experiences.  Habitus expands to our ‘taste’ for cultural objects such as art, food and clothing (Bourdieu, 1990).  Relevant to the concept of identity, Bourdieu theory states that individuals acquire their identities or subjectivities through the acquisition of habitus.  The theory proposes that habitus is acquired through locations and experience (Food and Eating 2019 Lectures).  This is connection through capitals (which can be social, cultural or economic).  These transform through time as individuals move through different fields and as they work to accumulate the capitals of personal value (Bourdieu, 1990). 

Theory Two:

In order to gain a greater understanding of the development of national identity, theory proposed by Benedict Anderson, a key theorist in this field, will be utilized.  National identity can be defined as a person’s identity or sense of belonging to a nation.  It is the sense of a nations as a cohesive whole, as represented by distinctive traditions, culture, language and politics.  Nations, to Benedict Anderson’s, are imagined.  He suggests that nations are socially contrasted, made up of individuals who perceive themselves to be part of a particular group.  He states that’s a nation “is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow members, meet them, or even help them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communication” (Anderson, 2006)

Nationalism is a recent and modern creation despite nations being thought of by most people as old and timeless.  Nationalism is universal in that every individual belongs to a nation, yet each nation is supposedly completely distant from every other nation.  Nationalism is an idea so influential that people will die for their nations, yet at the same time an idea difficult to define (Anderson, 2006).  Nationalist movements have appeared in different time period periods and across different contexts, making it difficult to develop a universal explanation of how and why nations are constructed.  Four versions of the instrumentalist or constructivist view have sought to offer insight. These have defined national identity as 1) the product of structural change; 2) the project of elites; 3) a discourse of domination and 4) a bounded community of exclusion and opposition (Herb, 1999). 

Anderson begins his work by identifying three paradoxes of nationalism that he would address in his work.  The first of these is described as “the objective modernity of nations to be historians” This idea represents how people believe that their nation is superior to others.  The second paradox Anderson suggests is “the formal university of nationalism as a socio-economic concept.” In this paradox Anderson is trying to show that everyone should have a nationality or belong to a group.  For example, within New Zealand there are many people of European decent, Maori decent, Asian and non-Maori Pacific Islander decent.  These people collectively make up the nation of New Zealand (New Zealand Census).  The third and last paradox Anderson suggests is “the political power.” Anderson believes that despite power being a heavily utilised tool in national identity, it has never produced any great minds.  He believes that it is a useless construct.  There is some concern expressed by Anderson that by identifying with a nation, people become involved in intergroup comparisons, and tend to dishonor other groups.  However, several studies have investigated the relationship between national identity and other countries and found that identifying with national identity does not necessarily result in out-group derogation (Herb, 1999). 

Data: ethnographic and sociological evidence

As one of New Zealand’s icons, Kiwifruit is a food which in part expresses national identity within New Zealand. Kiwifruit is one of New Zealand’s largest horticultural exports and is one of the main commodities. The kiwifruit industry provides a number of jobs for New Zealanders. Kiwifruit is seen to be one representation of what is important in New Zealand, sharing its name with the national bird and the New Zealander’s international nickname “kiwi’s”. It is such a part of national identity that an enormous fiberglass kiwifruit slice towers over SH2 on the in the small Bay of Plenty town of Te Puke, in New Zealand.  Te Puke is known as New Zealand’s kiwifruit capital of the horticultural hub of the Bay of Plenty.  Kiwifruit is also placed on top of one of New Zealand’s most iconic and traditional desserts, the Pavlova (Kiwifruit New Zealand).

The kiwifruit industry relies on innovation and quality to maintain a premium global export.  It is ensured that the industry is sustainable in the long term with increasing demands from consumers for novelty and environmental sustainability, coupled with pressures to manage the bacterial disease Psa.  Plant and food New Zealand work with the industry to develop orchard management programs that allow growers to produce kiwifruit of maximum yield and quality, manage pests and diseases, and reduce chemical and water inputs.  Ensuring consumers get fruit which are deliver in premium condition (Plant and Food Research).  Through increased productivity of its crops, meeting the demands of the consumer in terms of novelty and taste, exceeding increasingly stringent requirements for sustainability and further differentiation of the New Zealand product basket (Plant and Food Research) kiwifruit as a national symbol is further enhanced.  

The iconic kiwifruit is not simply used as a symbol of our national identity and an icon in our kiwiana products, it is also a big player in the horticulture industry.  Horticulture is New Zealand’s fourth largest export industry (Horticulture New Zealand, Structure and Membership, 2017).  This is unsurprising as New Zealand’s history is based around farming both crops and animals and because of this horticulture is a big part of New Zealand identity both locally and globally. 

New Zealand’s horticultural production area uses over 120,000 hectares, which is about 2% of the country’s total land area (Ministry for the environment New Zealand, 2010).  This is possible because New Zealand is not densely populated as many European and Asian countries are.  More than 60,000 people are employed in New Zealand’s horticulture industry, in key growing regions spread from the North to the South Island of the country (Horticulture New Zealand, Structure and Membership, 2017).  The land which is used for horticultural purposes has increased by 4,500 hectares since 1990, most of this is due to the establishment of horticulture.  This corresponds with the contribution of horticulture production to New Zealand’s economy, as it has nearly doubled since 1990 (Ministry for the environment New Zealand, 2010).  Due to the growing demand for New Zealand produce globally, especially kiwifruit, which is New Zealand’s largest horticultural export (New Zealand Horticulture Export Authority).  The field that habitus is occurring in is the horticultural sector of New Zealand.

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New Zealand, also known as the land of the long white cloud, is famous for its beautiful landscape and greenery.  Farmland is now an ordinary part of the rural landscape that is New Zealand and has become the core of their national identity.  The horticulture New Zealand is an industry association representing New Zealand’s 5,000 commercial fruit and vegetable growers (Horticulture New Zealand, Structure and Membership, 2017).  New Zealand horticulture is a $5.68 billion industry, excluding wine, exporting 60% of total production to over 124 countries (Horticulture New Zealand, Structure and Membership, 2017).  The horticulture industry embraces the production, processing and shipping of and the market for fruits and vegetables.  Kiwifruit alone accounts for more than $1 billion in export earnings.  The industry has reputation for innovation, quality, early adoption of new technology and responsiveness to market demand.  New Zealand is a home to efficient, flexible producers who have the ability to respond quickly to international customer demand (Horticulture New Zealand, Structure and Membership, 2017). 

Bourdieu’s theory of habitus is can be applied to the horticultural industry of New Zealand. The habitus that surrounds the horticultural sector in New Zealand is the concept that for New Zealand the horticulture industry provides thousands of jobs, as well as aids the economy.  Bourdieu’s theory of capital can also be seen.  The horticultural industry contributes greatly to the New Zealand’s economy.  This economic capital has both direct and indirect roles.  The horticultural industry provides money directly to New Zealand’s economy and indirectly in agricultural support services, water machinery and fertilizer (New Zealand Manufacturing Report 2018). 

The horticultural industry in New Zealand also contributes to social capital as many horticulture businesses are located in small rural towns.  They often have a large impact on relationships within the community and contributes significantly to local fundraising, sponsorships and events within the community.   The Pukekohe Horticultural Hub are generous and regularly contribute to the fundraising, local marae, sponsorship of rugby teams (the Blues and Steelers) and contribute to school calf club days (Horticulture New Zealand, Pukekohe Hub, 2018).  Horticulture New Zealand also support New Zealand tertiary students by offering undergraduate scholarships to a value of $4,500 to help further these young people’s futures as well as offering them the opportunity to attend the annual Horticulture conference (Otago University). 

Health and well-being are essential to people’s ability to function.  Fruit and vegetables can improve health outcomes.  The New Zealand Ministry of Health recommends that adults eat at least three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit each day.  According to the New Zealand Health Survey 62% of adults in New Zealand meet these requirements.  The industry’s contribution to cultural capital goes beyond just nutrition and diet.  Horticulture also contributes thousands of full-time equivalents (the ratio between the total number of paid hours during a pay period) in New Zealand.  As this industry employs both indoor and outdoor vegetable growing and people to monitor this (and harvest the produce when its ready).  These employees are very important to the country’s food supply (Horticulture New Zealand, Pukekohe Hub, 2018). 

The horticulture industry being an outside based profession promotes a healthy, active outdoor lifestyle which is so important.  New Zealand is often advertised as a clean green country and it is often referred to as one big natural playground (Coyle, Maslin, Fairweather & Hunt, 2003).  this is just one more aspect of the national identity.  This promotes New Zealand’s healthy image.  Kiwifruit is a known superfruit and helps with the treatment for asthma, aids digestion, boost the immune system, helps manage blood pressure and can reduce blood clotting.  Health and well-being are a large part of New Zealand cultural capital (Singletary, 2012). 

Producers from the New Zealand Horticulture sector exceeded $8.8 billion in 2017.  The total horticultural exports was $5.18 billion (Plant and Food Research).  This means that the hard work New Zealand employees are doing on these farms are not for the good of their culture and social capital but instead aiding the economic capital of the country.  This is a part of New Zealand Horticultural Industry that many may not be aware of.  The horticulture industry exports the majority of its best quality produce for overseas sale, meaning New Zealand isn’t benefitting from the nutritional benefits of the best quality produce, which is important for their health and well-being.  Zespri (New Zealand’s largest kiwifruit producer) only exports their best quality kiwifruits, classified as Class 1 and 2 (Zespri, NZ). Zespri does not sell any Class 1 kiwifruit in New Zealand and only sells very few Class 2 in the New Zealand market.  Meaning that the best quality kiwifruit is being exported and only selling that of “lesser” quality in New Zealand.  This could impact how New Zealand views the horticulture industry.  Especially with the issue of scarcity.  If New Zealand exports all their premium produce it could result in the scarcity of these products within New Zealand.  In 2018 there was an avocado and kumera shortage, resulting in prices being extremely high for New Zealand grown produce, due to the majority of it being exported.  With kumera prices between $8.99 and $9.99 a kilo (Moorby, 2018).  In 2019 there was yet another avocado shortage with prices getting as high as $7.50 for considerable small avocados (Matthews, 2019).  Even though many companies claim they have a moral obligation to ‘feed New Zealand first’ they are still running a market driven business which is dependent on the supply and demand pressures internationally, resulting in New Zealand missing out on their own produce. 

These exports, however, are still important for New Zealand’s economy and economic capital.  The horticulture industry, only being New Zealand fourth largest export, is a small industry which has a very significant impact on their economy.  Its economic contribution was $142.8 million in 2018, with the bulk of this generated from exports (Nixon & de Morel, 2019).  Even a very small increase in horticultural productivity can result in a boost in New Zealand’s economy. 



This essay has utilized the theoretical views of Pierre Bourdieu and Benedict Anderson in examining national identity of kiwifruit which bought up questions regarding the horticulture industry in New Zealand.  Kiwifruit is a big part of New Zealand’s national identity and is a major component of kiwiana products.  New Zealand’s horticultural industry is one of the largest exports, providing the country with economic capital, but sometimes at the expense of their cultural and social capital, causing some inequity. 


  • Anderson, B. (2006). Imagined communities. Different Dispatches: Journalism in American Modernist Prose49.
  • Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital.
  • Bourdieu, P. (1990). Structures, habitus, practices. The logic of practice, 52-65.
  • Coyle, F. J., Maslin, C. L., Fairweather, J. R., & Hunt, L. M. (2003). Public understandings of biotechnology in New Zealand: nature, clean green image and spirituality.
  • Food and Eating 2019 Lectures
  • Herb, G. H. (1999). National identity and territory. Nested identities: Nationalism, territory, and scale, 9-30.
  • Kiwifruit NZ – www.knz.co.nz
  • Horticulture New Zealand, Structure and Membership. 2017
  • Horticulture New Zealand (2018), New Zealand Food Story: Pukekohe Hub.
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  • Matthews, J (2019, April 19).  Avocados early to hit the $5 mark. Stuff New Zealand
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  • New Zealand Census 2018
  • New Zealand Horticulture Export Aurthority
  • New Zealand Manufacturing Sector Report 2018
  • Nixon & de Morel, The Importance of Crop Protection Products for the New Zealand Economy. 
  • Otago University
  • Plant and Food Research New Zealand
  • Singletary, K. (2012). Kiwifruit: overview of potential health benefits. Nutrition Today47(3), 133-147.
  • Zespri Kiwifruit NZ – www.zespri.com


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