The theme of the August conference was “A billion dollar industry by 2022.” Currently, New Zealand produces only 0.5 percent of the world’s fresh apples and pears, and accounts for 4 percent of world exports of those crops.
Pipfruit NZ chair Nadine Tunley said the mission will be to create the most profitable pipfruit industry in the world. One of the strategies will be to increase exports to Asia and the Middle East while maintaining business in traditional markets. AgFirst Consultants, which was commissioned to analyze the state of the industry and project growth potential, forecasts that exports to Asia will increase from 300,000 tons to 475,000 tons by the end of the decade, according to the magazine.
To accomplish this, total production would have to increase from around 529,000 tons to 766,000 tons, and orchard land would need to increase from 21,500 acres to about 31,500 acres—a compound increase of 5.5 percent each year for the next seven years. Availability of land is not expected to be a constraint, because there have been as many as 37,000 acres in production in the past.
To fuel such growth, the New Zealand nursery industry would need to produce 2.6 million trees each year, up from the current annual production of 1.5 million trees.
Speaking at the conference, Bruce Campbell, chief operating officer for Plant and Food Research, said that achieving the “audacious” plan would depend on three critical areas: orchard profitability and productivity, market access, and premium quality, according to reports in The Orchardist’s September issue. Orchard productivity would need to increase from 80 bins per acre to 170 bins per acre.
Simplified growing systems that allow more than 85 percent light interception, but do not increase production costs, will be needed.
Campbell said the apple industry of the future will need:
—New preharvest tools
—Packout rates over 90 percent
—A new premium quality growing system
—New disease-resistant varieties
—Improved chemicals to ensure pest- and disease-free fruit for international markets
—Precise breeding techniques using marker-assisted selection for improved quality and disease resistance
—Reduced write-downs and fruit dumping —An understanding of consumer preferences in Asia.
• SOURCE: The Orchardist, September 2013, published by Horticulture New Zealand.