Bay poised to boom as fruit bowl of Asia

Kiwifruit and avocado industry responds to demand for quality, safe food, writes Carmen Hall

The Bay of Plenty kiwifruit and avocado industries could boom if New Zealand becomes the "fruit bowl of Asia", a report says.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says the Coriolis Research report shows fruit exports are shifting towards Asia and away from traditional markets such as Europe and the US.

"The report highlights that we can become a fruit bowl for Asia. Asian consumers prefer the sweetness and quality of New Zealand fruit and we are achieving considerable success there," Joyce says.

The report says the export value of kiwifruit doubled from $567 million in 2002 to $1.04 billion last year, and avocados are a stand-out fruit that have the potential to create meaningful export growth.

Zespri general manager of grower and government relations, Simon Limmer, says that Asia already accounts for more than half of its total volumes, and strong growth is predicted once supply constraints because of the PSA outbreak have been overcome.

"We have been growing Asia for a long time; Japan has been such an important market for kiwifruit but we have also got established markets in Taiwan and Korea," he says.

"Across the board, Asia has been a good market for us with significant growth in China and Southeast Asia, which will be ongoing."

Limmer says the recovery from PSA had been a blip but the industry would rebuild over the next couple of years.

"Obviously we have to rebuild gold volumes in particular, so obviously surplus demand for gold over this season and next will be affected but, beyond that, Zespri can see volumes coming back strongly.

"In fact, we're aggressive in terms of how big the future is."

However, he says New Zealand needs to be clear about how it positions itself in the Asian market to achieve premium returns. "I think the premium price follows the fact New Zealand is recognised as a reputable exporter with a focus on quality and food safety, and we must not compromise that."

New Zealand Avocado spokesman Midge Munro says Asia will be a major component of the global market mix for avocados from New Zealand, although Australia is its largest export market.

"New Zealand is in a good position to supply high-quality, safe food to Asia sustainably into the future, and from a logistical point of view is geographically well placed to supply fresh fruit by sea to Asia.

"Our exporters are leveraging the opportunities in Asia, particularly Japan, Singapore, Korea and Malaysia, where consumers are demanding healthy, safe food."

- Hamilton News

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