Horticulture Exports Resilient in the Year of the Pandemic

New Zealand horticulture exports weathered the effects of COVID-19 to reach new heights, climbing to a record-breaking $6.6 billion in the year ending 30 June 2020. This is an increase of $450 million from the previous year and more than 11 percent of New Zealand’s merchandise exports.

Plant & Food Research and Horticulture New Zealand publish ‘Fresh Facts’ annually to provide key statistics that cover the whole of New Zealand’s horticulture industries. According to the latest edition, the value of the total New Zealand horticulture industry exceeded $10 billion for the first time in 2020.

New Zealand horticultural produce was exported to 128 countries in 2020. The top five markets were Continental Europe, Japan, the USA, Australia and China. Exports to Asia were $2.76 billion, 42 percent of total NZ horticulture exports.

Kiwifruit, apples, and avocadoes made up most of New Zealand’s fresh fruit exports, earning $2.5, $0.9 and $0.1 billion respectively in 2020. An extraordinary 51 countries received New Zealand kiwifruit, 65 percent went to Asian countries. Included was a new red kiwifruit cultivar, marketed as Zespri™ Red Kiwifruit in Singapore and Japan by mid-2020. In 2020 New Zealand exported over 50 percent more apples by weight than it did a decade ago. The 402,000 tonnes of apples exported in 2020 were produced by 990 orchards and 57 packhouses.

The value of New Zealand wine exported reached $1.9 billion, an increase of 84 percent in the last decade. During this time, the production volume of wine also grew from 266,000 tonnes in 2010, to 457,000 tonnes in 2020.  The main variety grown in 2020 was Sauvignon Blanc, accounting for more than two thirds of commercial wine crops.

Fresh vegetable exports remained static at $300 million, however processed vegetables increased to $424 million. Our top processed vegetable exports were potatoes ($106.9 million) and peas ($115.4 million). Squash exports had a significant 24 percent increase in the past year to $79 million in 2020. Vegetable seed export earnings have increased by 95 percent over the last decade to $112 million, predominantly due to increased demand for carrot and radish seed.

“In a year affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, New Zealand’s horticulture industry has demonstrated resilience and our produce is more in demand than ever. Our reputation for high quality and safe food, combined with excellent growing systems and novel products, is vital in maintaining New Zealand’s share of the global marketplace,” commented David Hughes, CEO, Plant & Food Research.

Horticulture New Zealand Chief Executive, Nadine Tunley noted that it is great that the horticulture industry has continued to grow despite COVID-19.

“Horticulture has the potential to lead New Zealand’s economic recovery and play an important role in climate change mitigation. However, if horticulture is to reach its true potential, government policies around seasonal labour, highly productive land and freshwater, investment in research and development, and compliance must be supportive.  At the moment, there is a disconnect between what is being said about our industry’s potential and central and local government decisions that affect growers on the ground.”