19 Jun 2013

Puzzlement over NZ-Asia fruitbowl forecast

1:28 pm on 19 June 2013

Government claims that New Zealand could become a fruit bowl to Asia have drawn some puzzled responses from the people who grow and sell the fruit.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said a new Government report shows there are significant opportunities for an increase in fruit exports to Asia.

Mr Joyce said the report showed avocados, blueberries and cherries are the three fruits which have stand-out growth potential.

But Blueberries New Zealand chairman Dan Peach said he thinks the report's findings require a big stretch of the imagination as blueberry exports to Asia have collapsed in the last eight years.

The high dollar means New Zealand blueberries simply are not competitive in many markets.

Mr Peach said nearly all New Zealand's blueberries are now exported to Australia.

New Zealand exports about $1.5 billion worth of fresh fruit per year in total.

About $1 billion dollars of that value is from kiwifruit. And the industry's fortunes are in decline, after biosecurity breaches resulted in the PSA disease getting into the country.

After kiwifruit, New Zealand's next most valuable export fruit is apples - those exports are worth around $400 million.

Some in the apple industry are stunned that the report did not single out their sector's export growth potential in Asia.

Pipfruit New Zealand chief executive Alan Pollard said the industry is looking to more than double its export earnings in the next 10 years - and it believes a lot of that growth will come from Asia.

At the moment, about a third of the industry's trade is to Asia.