A new shipping service for Northland's $40 million kiwifruit industry represents a win/win for everyone.
It will take more than 500 truck and trailer trips off the road south of Whangarei, and boost profits for the people who grow the fruit for export.
From May, Northland kiwifruit will be able to travel directly to Singapore from NorthPort, using a new service, Kiwi Express, to be trialled by the Geneva-based Mediterranean Shipping Company, whose container vessels will stop at Marsden Point to load Zespri kiwifruit and other locally-grown produce every two weeks.
Northland produces about 3.5 million trays of kiwifruit every year, which equates to about 13,000 pallets, worth about $40 million. That volume is expected to double in the next three years.
Kerikeri grower, coolstore and packhouse operator Alan Thompson said he was thrilled with the new service.
"It's a major step forward for the growers up here. It's better for the fruit and it's better for us," he said.
The service would significantly lower his transport costs. Currently kiwifruit was trucked from Kerikeri to Auckland, before being loaded carted by rail to the Port of Tauranga to be shipped overseas.
Mr Thompson said the cost of getting one pallet of kiwifruit from Kerikeri to the Bay of Plenty was about $102. Loading that same pallet at Marsden Point was expected to cost about $36.
The service would also reduce the number of trucks heading south of Marsden Point. Current production of 3.5 million trays equated to about 520 truck and trailer units every year, and as volumes increased over the next three years that figure would climb to 850 a year.
Mr Thompson also expected the new service would be better for the produce.
"We hope it's good for the fruit, not sitting in a truck for 12 hours, which can happen," he said.
The industry had been trying to establish a regular shipment from Whangarei for about 20 years. In the past a charter ship had called stopped sporadically, but a regular service would allow exporters to plan better.
"Everything will be a lot smoother," he said.
Zespri and MSC are finalising details of the trial, which will continue until the end of the kiwifruit season in late August. Zespri will deliver refrigerated containers of kiwifruit to the ship every two weeks for direct delivery to Singapore, from where the fruit will be sold around the world.
They hope the service will become permanent next year.