Horticultural production exceeds $7 billion mark for first time
New Zealand's fruit and vegetable production has exceeded $7 billion for the first time, with exports now valued at $3.9bn.
Horticulture is more productive per hectare than the dairy industry, the country's largest export income earner.
HortNZ says its $3.9bn export returns out of the $7.16bn production total are derived from 123,000 hectares of land, versus dairy exports of $16.9bn from 1.7 million ha.
CEO Peter Silcock said they were not out to "bag" dairy, but the reality was that exports generated per hectare were high compared to other land uses.
The latest figures are for the year ended June 2014. Silcock said the value of production was expected to have increased during the 2014-15 year because of the kiwifruit recovery following Psa, and new plantings of apples and avocados.
Star export performers have been wine $1.3bn, kiwifruit ($930 million), apples ($536m), frozen potatoes ($105m) and avocados ($93m).
More than 20 per cent (by weight) of apple exports were New Zealand-bred cultivars such as Jazz and Envy brands.
Record numbers are now being trained in horticulture, with the Primary Industries Training Organisation reporting a 58 per cent increase in trainees to 7449 in 2014.
Investment in the industry, both on and off-farm, is calculated to be in excess of $36.5bn.
Silcock said the industry was confident of reaching the goal of $10bn production by 2020, but there were significant challenges such as the high value of the New Zealand dollar against the Australian.
Australia is the largest export market, at $872m, followed by the United States ($489m), Japan ($445m) and the UK ($398m). Asia as a whole is the destination for 30 per cent of exports.
Silcock said other challenges included finding seasonal labour and skilled management, securing reliable water supplies and ensuring urban areas did not encroach on prime horticultural land.