The juice on how to smuggle apples into Oz

NICK KRAUSE
Last updated 05:00 09/09/2012
Justin Hall
MARION VAN DIJK/Fairfax NZ
METEORIC EXPORTS: Redwood Cider Company managing director Justin Hall.

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The Aussies may not want our apples but it seems they can't get enough of the fruit's increasingly popular byproduct - cider.

Only limited numbers of New Zealand apples are accepted by the Australians despite a World Trade Organisation ruling two years ago which ended a 90-year ban over the fear of bacterial disease fireblight.

However, demand for Kiwi cider has rocketed in the past five years, and exports across the ditch have grown 400 per cent.

Tim Morris, a director at Coriolis Research, conducted a study for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and found that 96 per cent of New Zealand cider exports go to Australia.

The sales are worth $12.4m a year, which represents a third of Aussie cider imports. “It's just a beautiful story. We fight for 90 years to get our apples into Australia, they say they'll let them in and they don't, [so] let's send it in as alcohol,” Morris said.

“Taking apples, smashing them, adding a bit of yeast and putting them in a bottle and charging 10 times as much for them, that gets a big tick,” he said.

Brewer DB, which exports Monteith's and Old Mout to Australia, said its cider exports had risen 400 per cent since 2010.

Justin Hall, managing director of Redwood Cider Company, which is a joint venture with DB based in Nelson, said growth was meteoric. Annual growth of more than 30 per cent was still possible both here and in Australia over the next couple of years, he said.

However, there are concerns over the growing number of inquiries from Australian firms about buying New Zealand apple juice to use in their cider.

"They recognise our supply and our quality," Hall said. "That's obviously an imperative for us to make sure our relationships with our suppliers are strong and sustainable."

Morris believes New Zealand can steal market share from world leader Ireland which takes US$215m a year from cider exports.

New Zealand could leverage the country's image as well as its premium global positioning in terms of wine, he said.

“Let's have a crack at the UK market. If Ireland can do it, we can do it. It's early days yet but could we get as big in cider as we are in wine?”

The opportunity to take market share from Ireland hasn't gone unnoticed at Redwood Cider. "I can confess that is definitely on our radar," Hall said.

Meanwhile, the situation facing our apple growers remains challenging. Alan Pollard, chief executive of national industry body Pipfruit New Zealand, said it had sent “a few containers” to Australia at the tail end of the season. Onerous biosecurity rules made cost-effectiveness problematic.

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“While the market will offer opportunities for us in the future, the current export protocols are unreasonably challenging and the prices being obtained for fresh fruit in the Australian domestic market are poor,” he said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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