While the lens is currently focused on record net migration numbers and the burgeoning tourism industry, parts of our export sector have been making new records.
The kiwifruit industry continues to make great inroads with export receipts at a record $1.7 billion in the year to February 2017. Even with average export prices dipping slightly over the last six months, a bumper season has meant record volumes of production alongside increased demand, boosting export receipts. Over 45 million trays were produced over the season, up from 27.5 million trays the previous season. The bumper crop was aided by favourable conditions over the two previous winters, and good management practices and summer growing conditions. The transition to new gold varieties has also played a key role.
The kiwifruit industry has bounced back remarkably after the damage suffered from the PSA virus outbreak in 2010. The outbreak resulted in lost exports of around $900 million. Record per-hectare returns for gold kiwifruit and organic green varieties are expected, with Zespri announcing a net profit after tax of $71 - $74 million for the year ending March 31 2017.
Kiwifruit growers are also seeing the turnaround in the rising values of their orchards – from $450,000 a hectare in 2015, to around $600,000 in 2016. In the Western Bay of Plenty, kiwifruit orchards saw their capital values increase by 42 percent while land values grew by 54 percent over the last two years. Growers pay a median price of up to $200,000 a hectare for licences to grow certain gold varieties.
Demand has grown strongly in the Asian market, where kiwifruit has been marketed as being a nutrient-dense fruit. As well as volume, size, and time of the year, growers are paid in terms of taste and for the percentage of dry matter in fruit. The higher the dry matter the higher the price. This allows for premium product offerings which further push up the price for exports, and appeal to premium export consumers.
Meanwhile, licensing has been granted in growing sites in Europe, including Italy. This investment aims to ensure a year-round supply of kiwifruit to cater to the European market, as the season in New Zealand covers April to December. There is also potential for further licensing expansion in China, where trial growing sites have been established.
With growing international demand and a strong supply chain, the NZ kiwifruit industry is finally seeing some rosy times ahead.