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NZs horticulture sector set to outpace forestry in export revenue

MPI’s Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries report shows a strong future for NZ horticulture, with forecast export revenue rising to $8.19 billion by 2025

“The report shows the horticulture industry overtaking forestry to be the third largest earner of export revenue in the food and fibre sector by 2025,” says Horticulture New Zealand (HortNZ) chief executive Nadine Tunley.

“This is fantastic news for our growers and our rural communities who have shown amazing resilience through some challenging times with 2023 weather events. The report is an upbeat look ahead and a huge vote of confidence in the sector.”

The report, which outlines the export performance of New Zealand’s food and fibre sector over the last five years and out to 2025, shows that while horticulture export revenue is forecast to decrease one per cent to $7.0 billion in the year to 30 June 2024, this is primarily driven by lower volumes of wine and vegetables.

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However, increased export prices are forecast, supported by strong global demand and constrained global supply. Recovering crop yields in 2024 are expected to offset lower volumes for some crops, largely resulting from the tail end of weather-affected 2023 harvests.

“It’s heartening to see that with these increased yields, strong consumer demand and prices, our sector’s export revenue is expected to rebound by a significant 17 per cent to hit $8.19 billion in 2025.”

While avocado exports are expected to take a short-term hit due to Cyclone Gabrielle-damaged crops, combined with strong domestic production in Australia which imports most of New Zealand avocados – strong growth is anticipated in Asian markets.

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Nadine Tunley

Meanwhile, cherries are an increasingly promising crop with export revenue up eight percent to $84 million in the year to 30 June 2023 due to production expansion and forecast to grow 14 per cent to $96 million in the year to 30 June 2024

“We have some favourable winds blowing for cherry growers. With a later Chinese New Year falling on 10 February this season, our cherry growers will have longer window to make the most of the key markets who are apart of these celebrations and receive premium prices. Additional airline routes from Christchurch to China and Hong Kong during the cherry export season will also be favourable for Central Otago growers.”

Export revenue for fresh and processed vegetables grew 18 per cent to a record $737 million in the year to 30 June 2023, largely due to elevated export prices, which more than offset a large drop in export quantities caused by disruptions resulting from Cyclone Gabrielle.

Frozen and processed horticulture products mainly contributed to the 2023 export value with onions, nuts, and potatoes reaching their highest export values in decades. Further export growth for onions is forecast with an additional 400 hectares of planted area.  The recently negotiated free trade agreement with the EU, currently in the ratification stage, is also expected to boost vegetable exports.

“We want New Zealand to prosper by exporting our world-leading apples, kiwifruit, avocados, onions, cherries and many other products to millions of customers all over the world.

“This report is a boost. We are confident we can double farmgate revenue by 2035 in line with the Aotearoa Horticulture Action Plan. But we need the Government to recognise and understand the importance of horticulture and create and maintain the conditions for our industry to thrive, and in doing so, lift the overall health, wellbeing and economy of New Zealand.”

The sector wants to work with the Government in key policy areas including increasing industry resilience to climate change and adaptation, ensuring the provision of special vegetable growing areas, investing in sustainable land and water use and accelerating research and development.

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