GOLOCAL

A global increase in consumer demand for organic produce has been paralleled in New Zealand with a rise in organic kiwifruit production.

And Trevelyan's Pack and Cool is leading the charge.

The Te Puke-based packhouse has packed 50 per cent of the organic SunGold kiwifruit and about 12 per cent of the organic Hayward kiwifruit for New Zealand this year alone.

Within their growers, Trevelyan's has 46ha of organic G3 (Gold) and 29ha of organic Hayward, with this set to rise as a large number of growers undergo conversion from conventional.

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Trevelyan's organic category manager Nicola Roderick said growing organically fitted with the company's ethos of "sustainability – environmental, social and economic".

"We can see a strong future in this category, particularly in SunGold, as it grows really well under organic principles in our regional climate."

Roderick said there was a huge commitment from leadership in organic kiwifruit with Treveylan's managing director James Trevelyan also converting to organics.

According to Organics Aotearoa New Zealand, New Zealand's organic fruit and vegetable exports have seen a 26 per cent increase in the past three years – a statistic Roderick confirms at a local level.

"People are more interested in where their food is coming from, and as more young people are getting into orcharding, we find they are keen on converting their crop into organics.

"They've grown up in a different generation where environmental sustainability is commonplace, and so going organic just feels like another piece of the puzzle, in terms of protecting our planet and our own wellbeing."

Having grown up on an organic orchard, Roderick "can't imagine not growing organically" but understood why there was still a lot of stigma around it for conventional growers.

"You only know what you know, so it can be hard to change and one of the biggest barriers for some growers is that changing to organics is perceived as too hard."

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But Roderick said there was a great support network available through BioGro, Zespri, the Certified Organic Kiwifruit Growers Association and some post-harvest facilities to help growers do this.

"It's incredibly rewarding for both the planet and your business long-term."

While it can take up to three years to fully transition to organic, Roderick said some orchardists made the change in stages.

Roderick said, anecdotally, those who did had benefited from the move, due to the higher premiums paid per tray.

Roderick believed these success stories and grower discussions had resulted in a positive attitude change towards organics.

Trevelyan's has been working with Zespri and BioGro to facilitate forums and workshops on the topic, to upskill and share knowledge between their growers and plans to hold more.

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"Through these conversations, we're seeing conventional growers learning from organic growers, and even making small changes to the way they run their conventional orchard – for example moving away from using weed killer in favour of mowers as organic growers do," she said.

"It's an exciting time to be part of this thriving industry."

Trevelyan said there seemed to be a general trend towards "this search for the best possible eating experience".

"There is stuff you do in organics that just makes a lot of sense."

He said it was an expensive category but it was sustainable long-term.

Zespri global marketing manager of organics Alice Moore shared this sentiment, saying the global organic food and beverage market continued to grow, driven by consumers' desire for a healthier and more natural lifestyle.

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"Within the world's largest organic markets of North America and Europe, we're seeing organic become more mainstream, as consumers choose foods that are both good for them and good for the planet."