Nashi back in the fold

More than three decades af­ter the Asian pear, nashi, was first in­tro­duced into New Zealand, it has re­joined the pipfruit in­dus­try body.

The Orchardist - - >>news - By Rose Man­ner­ing

Nashi NZ and NZ Ap­ples & Pears have merged their in­ter­ests, and Nashi NZ will be wound up.

Its pres­i­dent, Ian Wal­lace, said it was a prag­matic de­ci­sion for his in­dus­try, as the vol­ume of nashi now pro­duced made it dif­fi­cult to sus­tain an in­de­pen­dent as­so­ci­a­tion.

NZ Ap­ples & Pears chief ex­ec­u­tive, Alan Pollard, said there could be syn­er­gies with the now com­bined or­gan­i­sa­tion which may help nashi grow­ers in the fu­ture. Pos­si­ble re­search op­por­tu­ni­ties and align­ment could be seen with sim­i­lar new prod­ucts such as the crunchy Piqa Boo, which also has Asian pear parent­age.

Nashi first ar­rived in this coun­try in the early 1980s, and the first trial trees were avail­able from the Depart­ment of Sci­en­tific and In­dus­try Re­search (DSIR) in 1982. Touted as the next ki­wifruit, in­ter­est and up­take was rapid, par­tic­u­larly in Bay of Plenty and Nel­son.

“At the begin­ning there was a bat­tle over whether nashi should be deemed a pipfruit and hence come un­der the aus­pices of the NZ Ap­ple and Pear Mar­ket­ing Board mo­nop­oly control,” Ian said.

Turn­ers & Grow­ers suc­cess­fully de­fended an in­de­pen­dent stance through the court sys­tem and mul­ti­ple ex­porters en­gaged in the in­dus­try. In its hey­day there were 60 to 80 grow­ers but this has re­duced to the cur­rent 10 to12 grow­ers, with half of these in the Waikato. There are a few grow­ers in Nel­son and Horowhenua, with one each in Hawke’s Bay and Gis­borne. The to­tal land area in the crop na­tion­ally is now un­der 30 hectares.

At its peak, the in­dus­try ex­ported close to 300,000 trays in the late 1990s.There’s now been a change to con­cen­trat­ing on sup­ply­ing the lo­cal mar­ket with small vol­umes still ex­ported to the Pa­cific Is­lands.

Nashi com­mer­cial fruit pro­duc­tion was de­vel­oped in Ja­pan .In­ten­sive pro­duc­tion tech­niques are needed to en­sure a smooth fruit fin­ish suit­able for sale and in NZ Ian said problems with han­dling, fire­b­light and fruit set con­trib­uted to a rapid de­cline in pro­duc­tion. He’s a mem­ber of a small but ded­i­cated group of grow­ers who keep lo­cally grown fruit on NZ su­per­mar­ket shelves. His own 2ha or­chard is fully bird­net­ted to en­sure full crop re­cov­ery.

This year the nashi com­mod­ity levy ex­pires, and ad­min­is­tra­tive costs as­so­ci­ated with keep­ing it in place had be­come oner­ous for the small as­so­ci­a­tion. NZ Ap­ples & Pears had been un­der­tak­ing some of its ad­min­is­tra­tive work for the last decade.

“We had talked about com­bin­ing with them, and this year both levies ex­pire so the tim­ing was right,” Ian said.

Go­ing for­ward the levies will be com­bined. With the nashi levy dis­ap­pear­ing the re­sult is a slight levy re­duc­tion for these grow­ers. Nashi NZ will be wound up when the tran­si­tion to NZ Ap­ples & Pears is com­plete.

Al­though the in­dus­try has had its woes, many fun­da­men­tals of grow­ing the nashi crop are quite sim­ple. It re­quires few fungi­cides and in­sect pests are easy to man­age.

“We only re­quire four or five sprays a year,” Ian said.

“And nashi store well for four to five months.”

Com­pe­ti­tion with Chi­nese net­ted nashi and Ya pears im­pacted lo­cal mar­ket sales this sea­son, with low prices at times mak­ing trade dif­fi­cult.

Dis­cus­sion be­tween the two groups had been tak­ing place for the last few years.

“We al­ready man­aged all of their ad­min­is­tra­tive and sec­re­tar­ial re­quire­ments,” Alan said.

“As the grower num­bers fell, the ad­min­is­tra­tive bur­den be­came too great. Nashi are a spe­cial­ist fruit, not as easy to grow and sell as other pipfruit. They how­ever main­tain a loyal fol­low­ing.”

NZ Ap­ples & Pears are happy to as­sist where they can to keep the nashi in­dus­try go­ing.

“This will take a bur­den off them, and there could be up­sides to help the in­dus­try’s longevity,” he said.

One of these may be in the area of re­search, with NZ Ap­ples & Pears al­ready hav­ing sim­i­lar prod­ucts in its va­ri­etal range. Learn­ings from the de­vel­op­ment of new va­ri­eties may be trans­ferrable.

“We are cer­tainly bet­ter placed to­gether than sep­a­rately.”

Nashi NZ pres­i­dent, Ian Wal­lace, on his or­chard at Matangi near Hamilton.

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