Bumper crop boosts NZ apple and pear exports

Last updated 13:47 20/12/2013

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The largest crop in nearly 10 years has allowed apple and pear growers to crack the $500 million mark for exports.

The pipfruit industry believes the result has placed it on track to reach its export target of $1 billion by 2022.

Pipfruit New Zealand Incorporated (PNZI) chief executive Alan Pollard said the economic impact of apple and pear exports on regions was "extraordinary".

"North Island centres such as Hawke's Bay received $350m in export receipts, up $100m on 2012, and South Island centres such as Nelson have received $150m, $50m more than 2012," he said.

"When you factor in the economic multiplier of these extra receipts, that represents a huge economic boost for provincial New Zealand."

Kiwi apple growers had the highest productivity in the world with an average of more than 60 tonnes of fruit a hectare, compared with just over 41 tonnes from its nearest competitor, Chile.

New Zealand's better access to high-growth Asian markets than southern hemisphere competitors and its high-quality fruit and strong safety systems earned it the highest prices, Pollard said.

PNZI said the recognised seasonal employer (RSE) scheme introduced by the government in 2008 had allowed the industry to build business through tough times.

Through the global financial crisis and despite the high dollar, access to seasonal staff helped orchard owners to raise production by 32 per cent and their orchard area by 20 per cent.

"The RSE scheme transformed the apple industry almost immediately, lifting our quality and our productivity way beyond our competitors," Pollard said.

About 25 per cent of the apple work force is provided by the scheme. RSE workers are mainly in jobs such as thinning and picking, with mainly Kiwi teams looking after the coolstore and packing work.

PNZI said the scheme had generated more employment for New Zealand workers.

Worker numbers were up 19 per cent to manage the higher production, and there were 16 per cent more seasonal New Zealand workers to pick and pack the extra fruit.

PNZI business development manager Gary Jones said the industry could not grow without the RSE workers.

"The growth potential of the industry out to 2022 will require another 1400 highly skilled permanent workers," he said.

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