Re­searcher picks rosy fu­ture for fruit ex­ports

South Waikato News - - RURAL DELIVERY - By CATHER­INE HAR­RIS

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.

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