Wasps on a plane - NZ's live exports to the United States booming

Planes flying to the United States from New Zealand often have more than just passengers and their luggage on board.
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Planes flying to the United States from New Zealand often have more than just passengers and their luggage on board.

Next time you catch a flight across the Pacific, you might not be sharing the plane only with your fellow human travellers – there might also be an entire wasps' nest on board.

Live exports to the United States are growing and exporters who freeze wasps' nests and send them to immunotherapy drug developers can earn more than $1000 per kilogram.

New Zealand exports of short shelf-life goods to the US have increased by up to 150 per cent over the past few months according to new industry figures and data from Hawaiian Airlines.

Tim Strauss, vice-president of Hawaiian Airlines' cargo division.
SUPPLIED

Tim Strauss, vice-president of Hawaiian Airlines' cargo division.

Tim Strauss, vice-president of Hawaiian Airlines' cargo division, said the market demand for a diverse range of products was increasing rapidly as Kiwi producers filled seasonal gaps in the northern hemisphere, and were expanding the market for live produce in the US.

READ MORE: * Millions of live animals exported from NZ

Strauss said analysis of data from New Zealand cargo shipments showed significant growth, particularly for niche and time-sensitive products such as horticultural produce, frozen serum and live animals.

Already year-to-date fresh fruit exports to the US mainland in 2016 are up by 50 per cent to $136 million compared to the same time last year according to industry export figures. Live animal exports are also up 53 per cent over the same time period.

Statistics New Zealand figures show there were live animals worth more than $1.5 million sent overseas as exports in 2015, up from less than $75,000 in 2014.

Increasingly, Honolulu is being used as a hub by New Zealand exporters of perishable goods keen to supply the greater US market.

Strauss said shipments of products such as live eels had doubled in the past few years passing through Honolulu on their way to the New York City fish markets.  A US decline in the size of cattle herds has also seen increasing demand for fresh New Zealand meat products.

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There was $222,654 worth of live eel exports last year, up from $132,717 in 2011.

He said North American and global consumers had an expectation that a wide variety of fresh foods would be maintained throughout the winter and off-season months, which has created an opportunity for Kiwi farmers.

"As the US growing season comes to an end, demand for New Zealand-produced foods such as berries, capsicums and root vegetables increases," he said.

Strauss said with a three-day shelf life, foods such as blueberries and raspberries were highly perishable and were air freighted to maximise grower and retailer returns.  

"Berries which are picked today by Kiwi farmers, will be delivered to North American supermarket shelves within as little as 36 hours from farm to retailer - anything later than that will make them unsalable," he said.

 "The fastest growing segment for the air cargo industry has been in perishable goods.  Timely and dependable transit creates huge demand and new market opportunities for New Zealand farmers, fishermen, and scientists alike who all share in the benefits of access to customers well beyond the borders of their own country."

 - Stuff

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