As New Zealand's major fruit exporter, a free trade agreement between New Zealand and the European Union would be beneficial for Hawke's Bay, the EU's agriculture and rural development commissioner says.

Commissioner Phil Hogan told Hawke's Bay Today during his visit to the region on Friday that fruit, wine and dairy were already the main exports New Zealand was sending to the European Union.

New Zealand exported 477,000 tonnes of fruit and nearly 1000 tonnes of vegetables to the EU in 2017.

"One hundred and fifty-five thousand tonnes of kiwis [kiwifruit] found their way to the European Union, and 121,000 tonnes for apples.


"Hopefully the free trade agreement between us will be able to consolidate that particular business between us."

Hogan was in New Zealand to discuss the pending free trade agreement, and to meet New Zealand farmers and growers to discuss the future of farming.

As well as visiting Hawke's Bay, Hogan also met with Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor, who said there was room to grow our trade with the EU.

"There is strong bilateral trade worth nearly $22 billion a year, but there remains plenty of room to see this trade grow in both directions."

"The commissioner's visit provided a key opportunity to reinforce the importance of the New Zealand and EU relationship, and our mutual support towards ensuring the success of current negotiations towards the FTA."

Part of Hogan's role as commissioner is looking at how to make farming more sustainable in the EU.

He said the EU's work in that area involved working with farmers to be part of the solution.

"We have to have an incentivised approach for our farmers, we need our farmers in rural areas to be part of the solution."

He said New Zealand faced a similar challenge, with agriculture accounting for 46 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

He said one example of New Zealand's approach to tackling the issue was the billion trees policy, as trees store carbon dioxide.

"We also work together, New Zealand and the European Union on technology, about how we can use technology to the best effect.

"We expect to have an ambitious chapter on this technological area as part of our free trade agreement."

O'Connor said the EU and New Zealand are close natural partners and will continue to work together on confronting challenges such as climate change.

The EU is New Zealand's third largest trading partner.