A bumper Northland kiwifruit crop earned the region's growers more than $50 million in export sales this year.

It has proved a golden harvest all round, with the international market's increasing demand for the higher priced gold variety of the fruit known around the world as kiwis.

But in both and green varieties — and there are still more green than gold being grown — 5.5 million trays have been shipped out of Northland since the pick, each tray selling for more than $10.

Kiwifruit export earnings for the country as a whole this year were well over $300m.

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According to Stats NZ figures, gold kiwifruit led the rise in the September quarter, up $122m in value and 22,285 tonnes in quantity on the previous three months.

Green kiwifruit also rose, up $62m (56 per cent) in value and 42 per cent in quantity.

In Northland, the return is well up on 2017's $44m, and the nationwide return more than matches the 144 million trays recorded in 2016, up 18 per cent on 2017 harvest.

The main growing area around Kerikeri and a smaller Whangārei area make up only about 3 per cent of New Zealand's kiwifruit industry, with nearly all the remaining crop grown in the Bay of Plenty.

However, Northland punches above its weight when it comes to yield because the climate is slightly better, said Karen Pickford, Northland's industry rep on the national body, New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated.

''It was a record crop and a record return, mostly because of the gold. Up here in the North where it's warmer, it does very well.''

Karen Pickford, Maungatapere kiwifruit grower and NZKGI's Northland board member. Photo / Supplied
Karen Pickford, Maungatapere kiwifruit grower and NZKGI's Northland board member. Photo / Supplied

Added to the Northland growers' earning more than $10 a tray, the cost of getting the product to market has been dramatically slashed this year, since a direct shipping line opened out of Northport's Marsden Point facility.

Previously the fruit was trucked to Auckland and railed to Tauranga to be shipped out.

The cost to get one pallet of kiwifruit from Kerikeri to Tauranga used to be about $102 but to load it at Marsden Point cost about $36, a saving of $66 directly for the producers.

''It was a wonderful push by the growers to get the crop shipped out of here,'' Pickford said.

''It's really important not just because of the significant savings in transport costs to the growers, but from a biosecurity perspective.

''If, say, fruitfly got into Auckland and caused a major biosecurity threat, without that shipping option we could have fruit stuck on trucks that couldn't pass through Auckland.''

Surprisingly considering the earnings this year, kiwifruit is not a hugely significant industry for Northland, unlike avocados which is the main fruit crop, said David Wilson, chief executive of regional economic development agency Northland Inc.

Wilson acknowledged the industry's profile in attracting Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) to offer a dedicated service from Northport, with advantages expected from that fortnightly call-in for other exporters and importers in the region.

Meanwhile, Pickford said the industry is indeed part of Northland's backbone and predicts it is going to increase its footprint in Northland.

There is plenty of land available, and several greenfields developments have started in Kerikeri, setting up large, mainly gold kiwifruit orchards. Many existing producers are also increasing their vines.

''In the next four or five years we're going to need a massive injection into the kiwifruit workforce. That's all money going into the community.''

* Northland businesses come in all shapes and sizes. If you have a business story to share please contact Lindy Laird, Ph 09470 2801, or email lindy.laird@northernadvocate.co.nz