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New Zealand kiwifruit export volume stable, but pipfruit volume down in 2011

by Lora Abcarian | May 10, 2011

Zespri International issued a press release March 17 stating that the company was looking forward to another strong kiwifruit season in 2011. Sally Gardiner, Zespri's general manager of its supply chain, placed global export volume at 100 million trays. "Growing conditions have been fantastic, with more rainfall and higher temperatures on average compared to last season, and we are expecting a great crop as a result," she noted in the statement.

A kiwifruit orchard in New Zealand, where the green kiwifruit crop is holding steady and gold and green organic crops are increasing. All varieties are now arriving in the United States. (Photo courtesy of The Oppenheimer Group)

The first shipments of Zespri kiwifruit exports are expected to arrive in North America in mid-May. Michele Hoard, Zespri senior marketing manager North America, told The Produce News that North America typically receives 7 million trays of the fruit annually.

On May 4, Pipfruit New Zealand Inc. released information concerning the 2011 export crop. According to a prepared statement from Chief Executive Peter Beaven, apple and pear volumes have been revised downward since a January estimate of 17.8 million cases was released. The organization is owned by the country's pipfruit growers, providing them technical, policy and marketing information.

Mr. Beaven said that it appears that apple varieties such as the Pacific Beauty and Cox Orange are trending downward approximately 15 percent, reflective of across-the-board trends for late varieties.

The Braeburn crop, a mainstay for New Zealand's producers, was affected by stormy conditions in Hastings. "Our assessment is that this year's Braeburn crop will struggle to get past last year's volume of 70,000 tonnes," Mr. Beaven said in the statement. "This would make it equal the smallest crop in the past 10 years."

He added, "Unique New Zealand varieties such as Pacific Queen and Pacific Rose are proving very popular with many consumers in markets such as China, India and Malaysia."

Volume data relative to pear production were not available.

As of December 2010, the U.S. State Department indicated that the United States was New Zealand's third-largest trading partner. "The United States slipped to third place, with a 4.9 percent drop from 2009, totaling U.S. $2.84 billion and making up 8.7 percent of New Zealand's total exports," the department's web site stated.

Australia and the People's Republic of China occupied the top two trade positions as of that date. Europe continues to be a key destination for New Zealand pipfruit, and the industry is experiencing good demand and pricing this season in European markets.

Pipfruit volume exported to the United States during 2011 is expected to drop as a result of a devalued U.S. dollar. Tom Richardson, general manager for Giumarra Wenatchee, said that the company has been importing apples and pears from New Zealand since 2002, the year deregulation began. "The New Zealand dollar is at a high compared to the U.S. dollar," he told The Produce News May 2.

The U.S. State Department's web site provides the following snapshot of the financial situation. "The New Zealand dollar reached a 24-year high of over U.S. $0.80 in July 2007 (the highest since the New Zealand dollar was floated), but as of January 2011, the Kiwi dollar was trading at U.S. $0.76."

According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to New Zealand, "U.S. goods imports from New Zealand totaled $2.8 billion in 2010, up 8.2 percent from 2009. U.S. imports of agricultural products from New Zealand totaled $1.7 billion in 2010, an increase of 3.5 percent from the previous year."