Av­o­cado storm dam­age in North­land

The Orchardist - - >>northland Storm - By Wendy Lau­ren­son

Soon after, came the rain. And the rain. And the rain.

Up to 500mm of rain fell in un­der four days in North­land with in­ten­si­ties of up to 36mm per hour.

And the strong winds con­tin­ued most of that time.

The re­sult was ex­ten­sive flood­ing across the whole North­land re­gion, ma­jor road clo­sures for sev­eral days in­clud­ing State High­way 1, and thou­sands of homes with­out power. The pri­mary in­dus­tries took a ham­mer­ing and Nathan Guy de­clared the storm a medium scale ad­verse event on Tues­day 15 July so fund­ing could be­gin to be al­lo­cated to where it was most needed.

North­land is only now start­ing to get back to work­ing or­der and is still count­ing the cost of mid-July's storm dam­age.

Av­o­cado grow­ers bore some of the brunt of the storm. Sue Cul­ham, Whangarei av­o­cado grower and Mid North (Whangarei) NZAGA rep­re­sen­ta­tive and AIC Di­rec­tor, says one av­o­cado or­chard has lost 70 trees, another one has lost 50 trees, and any av­o­cado or­chards ex­posed to the east have sus­tained dam­age.

“Dam­age in­cludes trees be­ing tipped over, split, twisted, blown right out, or snapped off at ground level. As well as struc­tural tree dam­age, crop loss is huge be­cause trees were laden ready to be­gin pick­ing soon. The Mid North and the Far North to­gether were fore­cast to be car­ry­ing about 35% of the na­tional av­o­cado crop of 7.4 mil­lion trays be­fore the storm, but we may have lost up to 30% of that. As­sess­ments are still be­ing made and of course we won't re­ally know the full ex­tent of the dam­age un­til the fruit is packed.

“The Far North grow­ers are more self-re­liant be­cause a lot have per­ma­nent staff, but here in the Mid North there are ab­sen­tee own­ers who have their or­chards man­aged, or grow­ers who work their or­chards part time, so there aren't the peo­ple on the ground to do the im­me­di­ate clear-up to get prop­er­ties func­tion­ing again. Any out­side as­sis­tance is there­fore greatly ap­pre­ci­ated.”

Sue says the storm wind was eerie. “You could hear it com­ing and build­ing up in the gul­ley, do the dam­age and die way, only to build up again. On one or­chard the tree landed sev­eral me­tres from where the roots were still in the ground. Fruit lay all around it. Dam­age was re­ally ran­dom with one tree cop­ping it while the sur­round­ing trees were okay.”

First came the gale force winds top­ping 170 km/h at Cape Reinga.

The in­cor­rect ver­sion of this story was pub­lished in the printed ver­sion of the Au­gust is­sue of Orchardist. We apol­o­gise for any em­bar­rass­ment this may have caused. The er­ror is re­gret­ted.

The

How­ever, top of his list of in­sights on the com­plex­i­ties of mar­ket­ing in a coun­try with huge po­ten­tial for New Zealand, were “re­la­tion­ships.” “There's been in­cred­i­ble growth in wealth in China. Peo­ple are look­ing for good prod­ucts that are safe and, for some, where the price point is not of ma­jor con­cern. But you have to have the right prod­uct for the right per­son, and when you see that op­por­tu­nity go for it. Don't hes­i­tate. Chi­nese com­pa­nies and peo­ple iden­tify with that very quickly and will try to close the deal.”

He ac­knowl­edges that in China New Zealand, as a “brand”, is grow­ing. China has a pop­u­la­tion of 1.3 bil­lion peo­ple, but a large per­cent­age can­not af­ford im­ported prod­ucts. Peo­ple in the ci­ties of Shang­hai, Beijing and Guangzhou are highly ed­u­cated, well trav­elled, and know about New Zealand. Th­ese con­sumers carry out ma­jor re­search of a prod­uct with food safety, health and qual­ity high on a Chi­nese con­sumer's check­list. De­mand from the Chi­nese mid­dle-class is also ex­pected to rise. E-com­merce is big in China and

Chi­nese peo­ple prob­a­bly have more on­line con­nec­tions than off­line, he said.

Hunter is aware of one fruit grow­ing area in the Unites States that pre-sold 155 tonnes of cher­ries on­line. The fruit was picked and de­liv­ered within 72 hours and all was “on­line” prior to fruit ar­riv­ing in China. In­ter­ac­tion on so­cial me­dia is a vis­i­ble pro­moter of prod­ucts and has the po­ten­tial of reach­ing tar­geted con­sumers.

New Zealand sum­mer­fruit are niche prod­ucts on China mar­kets and cher­ries need more lever­age from “brand” New Zealand. He sees niche fruit, with its shorter grow­ing sea­son, as need­ing a “big­ger story” to at­tract con­sumers back for the next sea­son the pro­duce hits Chi­nese mar­kets.

Hunter (35), was born in Roxburgh, raised on a mixed sum­mer­fruit or­chard at Dum­bar­ton, ed­u­cated at Otago Boys' High School (Dunedin) and has a mar­ket­ing de­gree from Otago Univer­sity. Hunter and his wife Win­nie were back in New Zealand vis­it­ing var­i­ous con­tacts and also catch­ing up with his par­ents at Dum­bar­ton. After some years in China, teach­ing English as a sec­ond lan­guage, Hunter seized the op­por­tu­nity about three years ago to es­tab­lish Link China Global Limited with the aim of link­ing con­nec­tions be­tween China and New Zealand and as­sist­ing with the dif­fer­ing cul­tural, le­gal and com­pli­ance de­tails in both coun­tries. Win­nie, then con­tracted to United King­dom re­tailer Sains­bury's to set up an of­fice in Shang­hai, later j joined Hunter in his business and the cou­ple have re­cently mar­ried.

Since form­ing his company, Hunter has as­sisted a num­ber of New Zealand and Chi­nese com­pa­nies across var­i­ous in­dus­tries. English is Win­nie's sec­ond lan­guage and Hunter speaks Man­darin so the cou­ple com­ple­ment each other with their abil­ity to work be­tween two cul­tures. They see this bal­ance as vi­tal for any­one in­tend­ing to mar­ket in China. “You need to be liv­ing here to be part of the cul­ture. Ev­ery­thing here [in China] is chang­ing.” He says in the eight years he has lived in China, New Zealand has not changed to the ex­tent China has.

The cou­ple say “re­la­tion­ships” are not just about work­ing with big com­pa­nies or cor­po­rates but work­ing with peo­ple, be­cause com­pa­nies change. They see keep­ing con­tact with peo­ple and main­tain­ing th­ese re­la­tion­ships as of greater im­por­tance. Know­ing how to deal with Chi­nese peo­ple “is a key”, par­tic­u­larly where iden­ti­fy­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties and “go­ing for it” is nec­es­sary.

“In China it is im­por­tant to have a trust and re­spect re­la­tion­ship be­cause you are in an en­vi­ron­ment where the rules are al­ways chang­ing. Be­ing hon­est and di­rect is an im­por­tant fac­tor and you have to stick to your val­ues and be con­sis­tent.” A Chi­nese con­sumer has low trust but this is sec­ondary if on so­cial me­dia they see other peo­ple's opin­ions of the best prod­ucts and the best places to go. “As an ex­am­ple… a cou­ple may plan to go out for a meal, so be­fore­hand they will check on so­cial me­dia any restau­rants or out­lets rec­om­mended by oth­ers be­fore mak­ing their own choices.”

Chi­nese peo­ple also pho­to­graph a din­ner meal or prod­ucts they have pur­chased and put th­ese up on Weibo, the equiv­a­lent of New Zealand's Face­book, to share their valu­able ex­pe­ri­ences. New Zealand has the checks and bal­ances on qual­ity and trace­abil­ity. When queried about the Fon­terra scare with baby milk for­mula, Hunter be­lieves this has to be taken in con­text. “China wants to lift its dairy sec­tor so when the is­sue hap­pened the Chi­nese me­dia jumped all over it.” Me­dia cov­er­age was less vis­i­ble as the prob­lem was re­solved.

Chi­nese peo­ple are very ac­tive users of so­cial me­dia in com­par­i­son to New Zealan­ders and the cou­ple see so­cial me­dia as a vi­tal method of “reach­ing out” to peo­ple as well as be­ing a cost-ef­fec­tive tool in ed­u­cat­ing users of all New Zealand prod­ucts. Hunter praised Zespri for its mar­ket­ing and ex­po­sure in the mar­ket place. “It's taken a lot of time. I see Zespri ki­wifruit ev­ery­where in Shang­hai.” But when asked about ap­ples Hunter replied: “Just a few ap­ples here and there but not al­ways with a clear New Zealand tag.”

How to bring Chi­nese con­sumers back to a niche prod­uct when New Zealand cher­ries are avail­able for the new sea­son in De­cem­ber, as well as telling the big­ger story about New Zealand sum­mer­fruit? Re­la­tion­ships and com­mu­ni­ca­tion again… reg­u­larly main­tain con­tacts dur­ing the off­sea­son to re­mind them New Zealand is out there.

“In China it is im­por­tant to have a trust and re­spect re­la­tion­ship be­cause you are in an en­vi­ron­ment where the rules are al­ways chang­ing.”

A wind blown tree in the mid­dle of the av­o­cado or­chard block.

En­joy­ing fresh Cen­tral Otago ap­ples are Hunter McGregor and his wife Win­nie, from Shang­hai, who work with Chi­nese and New Zealand com­pa­nies.

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