PROCESS EXPORTS DRIVE AHEAD
New Zealand’s processed vegetable exports are significantly larger in volume and value to those of Australia, while New Zealand also now imports considerably less than Australia does.
In the last three years, there has been a significant change in the import and exports of processed product. New Zealand is now exporting more and importing less when compared to the same products five years ago. Meanwhile, Australia is importing more and exporting less.
In 2010, New Zealand imported processed vegetables far more heavily from Australia than we do now, and Australia imported less. The difference now is a result of many factors; our competitive labour rates and internationally recognised quality have made New Zealand produce highly desirable in the foreign market, and the closure of many Australian vegetable processing operations to relocate in New Zealand has made our processed vegetables an essential export in particular to Australia.
While New Zealand imports have risen slightly in the last three years, and exports are flattening out, taking an international approach shows these changes in perspective. We're doing a lot better than other countries. Australia's imports have skyrocketed, and their exports have dropped. New Zealand's processed vegetable sales are far more stable, despite a backlash from several Australian supermarkets, who claim they will not stock imported goods.
Most of New Zealand vegetable exports are from the processed sector. The ‘Product of New Zealand' label also seems to be a boon to sales, thanks to our outstanding international reputation for quality. >
The New Zealand vegetable processing industry is now well established in New Zealand and is becoming more competitive than other exporting nations, as well as currently supplying most of the Australasian market.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Australia's process vegetable imports rose by 19% to $309 million in 2013-14, and again by another 7% in the 2014-15 season. Australia receives the majority of their imports of processed vegetable from Italy and China. Meanwhile New Zealand is Australia's third largest supplier at $34 million, which has increased by 6% since 2012-13. Australia has increased its imports of processed vegetable imports year on year from most of its top 15 supplying countries.
With an increase in production costs in Australia, and New Zealand's remaining considerably more stable, Australian imports from New Zealand have increased. In the last financial year alone, frozen potato imports from New Zealand to Australia have increased by 24,000 tonnes, as well as 1,500 tonnes of whole tomatoes and 780 tonnes of frozen peas, much of which is sourced in New Zealand.
“It's really good”, said David Hadfield, chair of Process Vegetables NZ. “It's just a pity we can't export more. The factories are pretty much running at their upper capacity at the moment for certain crops.
“New Zealand produce is in high demand right now. A lot of Australian produce goes straight into their homebrand ranges and, since not everyone wants homebrand, we find our niche with premium brands.
“The regulatory situation in Australia hit the processing industry hard along with variable security of access to irrigation water, and so most of the production moved to New Zealand. We're much more user-friendly over here by comparison, and have a more reliable water supply.”
Australia is the largest destination for our processed vegetables, followed by Japan. Meanwhile, New Zealand imported horticultural produce from over 100 countries in 2014, with vegetables worth a total of $196.2 million. Almost three quarters of those imports were in five categories, the largest being
New Zealand is Australia’s third largest supplier at $34 million, which has increased by 6% since 2012-13.
$49.1m of frozen vegetables from 36 countries. Over half of these imports were frozen potatoes, at a value of $27.9m, with Australian imports accounting for $14.5m.
Added to this were $30.6m worth of vegetable preparations imported from 58 countries. China and Spain each accounted for $2.9m, Greece $2.6m, Australia $2.0m and Peru $1.8m. Dried vegetables worth $29.2m came from 56 different countries with the largest category, dried beans, making up $13.4m. The United States was the biggest player here, accounting for just $10m. A total of $26.7m worth of preserved tomatoes were imported from 23 countries, with Italy taking the lead at an import value of $12.9m, followed by the US at $7.2m.
The fifth category was $10.9m worth of melon imports from seven different countries with Australian imports worth $8.4m, followed by the Philippines at $1.9m. Turkey, through its exports of dried fruit, Vietnam, Fiji, the Netherlands, India and Belgium also send smaller quantities of vegetables to this country.
The ultimate takeaway here is a positive one - that exports are up and imports are down across New Zealand's processed vegetable industry. Faced with a changing market and the need to adapt to survive, the New Zealand market has had a hard graft of it over the past few years. But the effort seems to be finally paying off.
“New Zealand produce is in high demand right now. A lot of Australian produce goes straight into their homebrand ranges and, since not everyone wants homebrand, we find our niche with premium brands.”
Australia's exports are steadily declining, while New Zealand's remain relatively static, and far above the competition.
Despite rising imports into New Zealand, the flow is considerably slower than Australia's.
Growers, researchers and processors in Hawke's Bay discussing issues and potential solutions to increase bean yields.
Process corn being inspected and graded before canning or freezing.