14 Jun 2013

New Zealand can take advantage of demands for fruit in Asia

3:06 pm on 14 June 2013

A report on the fresh fruit sector released this week suggests New Zealand can become a fruit bowl for Asia.

It also also addresses the obstacles such as the high tariffs imposed in some of those markets.

Earlier, Zespri said the summer drought has helped to make sweeter fruit, which is boosting sales in Asia.

The Coriolis Research report, Driving Growth in the Fresh Fruit Sector, is the latest in a series of reports released under the Food & Beverage Information Project.

Exporters and producers are focusing more attention on Asia to take advange of higher prices and lower freight costs and shipping times, compared with traditional markets such as Europe.

Sweeter tasting new varieties of apples and other fruits are specifically being developed to cater for Asia taste preferences.

The report says that avocados, cherries and blueberries stand out as having the potential for export growth, but it also points to production challenges for those fruits.

The sweeter, the better

Kiwifruit exporter Zespri has confirmed the view of growers and packers that the summer drought has helped to produce some of the best tasting kiwifruit it has it's sent to market.

Record sunshine hours in the main growing area, Bay of Plenty, have resulted in the fruit producing high levels of sugar.

Zespri says the crop is impressing customers worldwide with its sweetness.

Marketing manager Carol Ward says while the lack of rainfall during the drought has made the fruit slightly smaller, it's sweetness should boost demand, particularly in Asia.

"One of the key things on a fruit product is its level of sweetness and in the Asian markets there's a preference for sweet-tasting fruit.

"There's a lot of competition during the summer from other fruit like pineapples, peaches, nectarines and melons, that are also sweet, so it puts us in a strong selling position for the season ahead."

Ms Ward says both green and gold kiwifruit are extra sweet this season, although volumes of the gold variety are well down due to losses from the vine disease PSA.

The wine industry is also crediting the long, hot summer for what's expected to be one of its best vintages.