Post-harvest investment of $1 billion needed
On the Zespri roadshow in Nelson, new chief executive officer, Daniel Mathieson said that target was within the industry’s grasp, but not without challenges ranging from world politics and economies through to biosecurity, labour and the ability to get significant plantings into the ground.
The industry grows about 13,000ha of fruit and that will have to increase to about 20,000ha to achieve Zespri’s ambitious goal, with SunGold increasing from about 6000ha to 10,000ha and Zespri Green which is declining, turning in the other direction to climb from 7000ha to 9000ha. That means finding good land with good access to post-harvest facilities as well as labour.
Geographic diversity was equally important because of biosecurity risks which was highlighted by Psa, when fruit could not be shipped to China from the Bay of Plenty, but could be sourced from Nelson.
Major growth in the industry would also need massive investment in the post-harvest sector, which Mr Mathieson put at $1 billion. Innovation and in particular, automation due to the shortage of labour, were a real focus for that investment, he said. The challenge in New Zealand was utilisation of those facilities, so Zespri was looking at offshore facilities where it could send fruit to the market early for cool storage and possibly packing fruit offshore as well to ease the burden here as the crop grows substantially to fill supermarket shelves.
“We need to be the kiwifruit category manager of choice to as many retailers around the world as we can. When they think kiwifruit, they think Zespri and come to us for everything. That’s not just in New
Zealand, but 12 months of the year because as soon as you give them a gap in the shelf space, someone else gets in there and it’s harder to get your position back again.”
To do that, it needs a seamless transition between the New Zealand supply of fruit and its non-New Zealand supply 12 months of the year so retailers have the entire year sown up and don’t need to talk with anyone else, he said.
Already, Zespri is the biggest consumer foods brand out of New Zealand with a value of $2.3 billion last year and Mr Mathieson said it was on the way to becoming the biggest in the world.
“It’s growing a real presence with our consumers. It’s a consumer brand; it’s at the heart of our consumers and that’s what is driving us.”
At Zespri’s grower roadshow in When Mr Mathieson asked who Gisborne in November, chief executive might take up the offer of SunGold Dan Mathieson reiterated the marketing licences a good few hands went up, company’s plan to ramp up production but having observed an acceleration of its star performer, SunGold, through of apple plantings on the Poverty Bay an annual allocation of 700 hectares in Flats, some growers were worried licences from 2018 to 2022, making for about the availability of labour. a total of 3,500 hectares released over
However, grower and Tairawhiti the next five years.
Labour governance group chair Tim (The board will review the licence Egan said they were one step ahead. release each year against market
The government-funded Tairawhiti performance.)
horticulture co-ordinator had been Two-hundred and fifty hectares of hard at work exploring the seasonal Organic SunGold will also be released work scene in Gisborne with the aim over the same period so with nearly of pulling it together for the benefit 6,000 hectares of the rich Poverty Bay of both employers and employees Flats in pasture/unused land (Gisborne
“so we are heading in the right District Council Arable Land Use
direction”. Summer Crop Survey 2016/2017) – and still more in low-value crops – And just that morning Eastland potential licence-holders will have the Community Trust had approved a region in their sights. grant of $230,000 to build on the
Tairawhiti workforce project, known And locals will need to move fast if
as Tipu, going into the future. (See they want to get on the SunGold train.
story Page 25). There are already reports of interest in land from buyers from the denselyThere was no denying that further planted Bay of Plenty, where prices for releases could put pressure on the existing SunGold kiwifruit orchards resources of land, water, labour this year hit a high of over $1 million and post-harvest services, Zespri a hectare, more than double the chairman Peter McBride said. $400,000 recorded in 2014.