NZ fruit exports 'unaffected' by coldsnap
Horticulture New Zealand president Andrew Fenton says a coldsnap in the country's South Island will not affect fruit and vegetable exports this season.
Fenton told www.freshfruitportal.com snows had however caused transport problems and prevented more than 40 farmers from attending the Horticulture New Zealand Conference 2011.
"The weather’s fine here in the north but further south there’s been snow, so we’re short by about 40 to 50 people here, but otherwise it’s going very well," he says.
"It’s (snow) had no effect at all (on horticulture), it’s only a short cold snap and there isn’t any fruit on vines or trees at the moment in those areas."
Other parts of the agriculture industry however are struggling from the weather, with some media local reports forecasting losses of one million lambs to the cold.
He said the key focal point of the conference has been addressing high domestic prices of some horticultural products like tomatoes, to let consumers know it's not to the growers's benefit but a result of supply issues, particularly from Australia.
On the export front exchange rates have been a key issue, with kiwifruit faring relatively better as they're traded mostly in euros and yen, while apples have struggled as they are mostly traded in U.S. dollars.
"Our domestic market is only four million and the food we export to the world is to a far greater population, and demand for our produce has always been good due to our clean green image. So New Zealand horticulture exports are booming, but with the higher exchange rate returns are lower," says Fenton.
"Kiwifruit is going very well as fortunately it’s not too exposed to the U.S. dollar; in fact it’s gone slightly in their favour, whereas apples have been more exposed to the dollar."
"The important thing for New Zealand horticulture is we have a target for NZ$10 billion (US$8.2 billion) revenue by 2020, which is not that far away, but we’ve already cut through the NZ$5.5 billion (US$4.5 billion) threshold. It’s an ambitious target for a small country like New Zealand, and you can see the determination as a country punching above its weight."
He says kiwifruit and apples make up a significant proportion of horticultural exports, but potatoes and onions are important too, with the latter representing between NZ$600 million (US$491.9 million) and NZ$700 million (US$573.9 million) annually.
"There’s innovation of new products we should see more of in the years to come, new kiwifruit varieties which in the next two to three years should be coming through, and there’s new varieties of apples."
Last week New Zealand businessman John Palmer suggested some apple growers in Nelson would be better off growing grass, as the crisis facing farmers had worsened. While Fenton does not deny many apple growers are in tough times, he points out some have been able to pull through.
"Apple growers are certainly finding it a difficult time, but those who are moving into new varieties, have been smart about the way they’ve grown and worked together are doing fairly well."
Fenton also hails the kiwifruit industry on its efforts to fight Psa.
"Psa has been mentioned today, growers are extremely concerned about Psa and it’s been very much a co-ordinated effort between growers - it’s just a matter of time.
"It’s an enormous effort unlike anything I think has been seen in the horticulture industry."