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.
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.