Researcher picks rosy future for fruit exports
Fresh fruit exports could double or even triple within the next 10 years if Kiwis can fully harness the industry’s potential, the author of a new export report suggests.
Tim Morris, director of research group Coriolis, said growing fruit was one of New Zealand’s strengths.
‘‘We’ve had huge success in apples – one in five apples grown on this planet, the genetics came from New Zealand. It’s an unsung success story.’’
But in a competitive world New Zealand could not afford to sit on its laurels.
In a report produced for the Government, Coriolis identifies five directions for growth in the fresh fruit sector, including Asia, new varieties and value-added products.
Though New Zealand’s major fruit exports were apples and kiwifruit, there was potential in furthering the avocado, cherry and blueberry markets.
Feijoas and kiwiberries, a type of cocktail kiwifruit, were also promising but faced storage and shelf-life barriers.
Avocado exports had the best outlook, with unrestricted access to the Australian market.
New Zealand avocado farmers had initially struggled with low yields and high production costs but were ‘‘learning real quick’’.
In general, however, New Zealand fruit exporters struggled with scale.
Italy, with a similar land area, produced 24 times as much fruit. Chile, with a similar climate, was exporting four times our volumes.
In the report, the heads of New Zealand’s top 20 fruit exporters labelled Asia their big hope, with lower shipping costs and more opportunities than their traditional markets.
Asians preferred sweeter varieties and New Zealand had been moving its plant genetics in that direction for the past decade.
However, tariffs and industry structures often got in the way.
Morris suggested the apple industry in particular would ‘‘clearly benefit’’ if it revived the best aspects of its former single-desk model and increased collaboration.
Another area of promise was in value-added products, such as juices and dried fruit, an area which New Zealand had traditionally avoided.
Morris said New Zealand sometimes got into a ‘‘production mindset, because we’re so often searching for scale’’ and did not pay attention to changing consumer preferences or building on its brands.
‘‘Is there more money in a can of water with a little bit of fruit flavour in it than there is in fresh fruit? Yes, there is.’’
A good example was US cranberry giant Oceanspray, which had taken an unpalatable raw product and turned it into a range of juices and dried products.
‘‘I can’t see any reason why you couldn’t take Oceanspray off a lot of those products and put Zespri there.’’
IMMENSE POTENTIAL: There is potential in furthering the avocado, cherry and blueberry markets.