The citrus industry in Hawke's Bay is largely untapped but has potential for growth, a Havelock North lime business owner says.

Gisborne and Poverty Bay are renowned for their citrus and although Hawke's Bay is nearby the industry is not as big here.

St Andrews Limes owner Anthony Williams said this is due to Hawke's Bay having more frosts.

However, there were many places in the district that did not get frosts and could be used to grow great lemons, limes and oranges, he said.

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"The citrus industry in Hawke's Bay is largely untapped. We potentially have good growing conditions here.

"If you were growing something on the coast it would certainly be viable."

Citrus grows well on the entire East Coast of the country but best in Gisborne due to fewer frosts.

Also the East Coast got the sun before anywhere else and this seemed to enhance the flavour of the fruit grown there, he said.

"For some reason the fruit seems to have more flavour than if they came from Waikato, Taranaki or Waiheke Island."

The pip fruit industry in Hawke's Bay has boomed much more than citrus and this has largely been due to growers producing different varieties such as small, brightly coloured apples which appeal to an Asian market, Mr Williams said.

However, throughout New Zealand the citrus industry was slowly growing and the export market into Asia was especially popular for lemons.

"From my point of view the citrus industry has started growing. It's getting better and better.

"The export market for lemons and maybe mandarins into Asia is huge ... not so big for oranges or limes."

Mr Williams used to grow limes for his business but took out his trees about 18 months ago because he was in a frost-prone area.

"They were getting increasingly harder to grow so I pulled them all out.

"In the last five years we seem to have had more frosts."

As part of his business, Mr Williams has a database of citrus growers around the country where he gets his fruit from to use in his lime products and also supplies the fruit to other companies.

He started his business about 15 years ago because he had several limes trees and did not know what to do with them.

"The only way to make money was to put them into a product and sell it. All the retail product is made here."

Mr Williams mainly uses Yen Ben lemons which are best grown north of Auckland for his chutneys and preserves.

Gisborne grows better Meyer lemons which have a thinner skin and are good for juice, he said.