New Zealand’s apple industry has come a long way since it was deregulated in 2001, with around 90 exporters working in the country today. In the 2015 season, apple exports reached a record $630 million and this year Pipfruit NZ expects exports to reach 19.5 million cartons, with returns exceeding $700 million. If it’s achieved, that export tally will be more than double the $341 million worth of apple exports in 2012.
The industry is aiming for $1 billion in export earnings by 2022, but Pipfruit NZ chief executive Alan Pollard says it is well on track to hit the target before then.
According to ANZ Research, in a survey of 33 countries, the annual World Apple Review ranks New Zealand’s pipfruit industry as the first in the world for international competitiveness, based on factors such as production efficiency and infrastructure.
Yet success and apple growing haven’t always gone hand in hand.
Post-deregulation, the industry has had to sort itself out. In the words of Pipfruit NZ business development manager Gary Jones, “we add value by getting to markets where there is huge scarcity.
“It is a blue ocean strategy. No others are in those spaces because our competitors can’t meet the quarantine standards of some of those markets,” Jones says.
The advent of proprietary varieties, such as Jazz and Envy, has also played a big role in securing valuable export dollars.
The area planted in apples is forecast to reach 11,000ha by 2020, from 9625ha this year. By that stage, the sector expects to be exporting about 425,000 tonnes of apples, out of a gross crop of 640,000 tonnes, compared with 335,000 tonnes (from 565,000 tonnes) last year. New plantings are increasing the area of orchards by 3 or 4 per cent a year. Pipfruit NZ expects next year’s crop to be “massive” and its biggest ever, Jones says. “There is a lot of investment in orchards and in post-harvest infrastructure going on,” he says.