NZ produce fills gap in Australia

JON MORGAN
Last updated 05:00 09/05/2012

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Burgeoning fruit and vegetable exports to Australia and Asia have added $100 million to New Zealand's income.

The horticulture industry is hailing a 3.1 per cent increase in exports last year as a great result in the face of a 6.5 per cent rise in the value of the New Zealand dollar and difficult market conditions.

The industry now accounts for $1 in every $13 of exports, with an annual value of $3.3 billion. With local sales added, the industry is worth $6.4b.

Australia's bad luck was New Zealand's good fortune when floods in Queensland devastated its growers and New Zealand stepped in to fill the gap.

Tomato exporters made big gains, lifting sales 50 per cent to $12m.

Australia is seen as the industry's biggest hope for the future, according to HortNZ chief executive Peter Silcock.

Exports to Australia had risen from $159m in 2000 to $756m in 2011 despite a row over apple access and difficulties meeting disease concerns with potatoes and kumara, he said.

Exporters were finding it tough to make headway in Europe as shoppers bought less fruit during the economic crisis.

"Exporters are realigning to growth markets which are closer to us and Australian consumers have obviously come not just to trust, but to rely on high quality New Zealand product," he said.At the same time exports to Asia had doubled, taking advantage of free trade agreements and targeting growth markets.

Shortened supply of some fruit because of difficult growing conditions and the affect of the vine-killing disease PSA on gold kiwifruit would affect this year's exports, he said.

But he preferred to take an optimistic view, saying the shortage could mean a rise in prices.

"We're hoping overall returns will still be good," Silcock said.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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