50 AUGUST 2017 THE LAST WORD KIWI FRUIT AND VEGES ON WAY UP There is significant potential for New Zealand to increase sales of fruit and vegetable produce into both developing and developed markets, but the industry must keep a close eye on evolving consumer consumption patterns if it is to maximise export opportunities, says US fruit and vegetable expert Dr Roland Fumasi Fresh produce from New Zealand is very highly regarded not only in the US, but around the globe. New Zealand also stacks up really well in the fruit and vegetable export arena, due to factors such as the strong industry organisation present here, New Zealand’s ability to supply counterseasonal produce, and the ease of doing business with Kiwi companies. In order to gain a greater share of the fruit and vegetable space in developed markets, New Zealand needs to closely follow consumption trends apparent in developed countries, where we’re not seeing increased consumption of fruit and vegetables but we are seeing a change towards more expensive and exotic fruit and vegetables. In these markets, consumers not only want their fruit and vegetables to be convenient, to be healthy, to look good and to taste good all year round, they also want them to be safe, to be responsibly produced and they want to know where they come from. I call this consumer expectation ‘100 per cent perfect – all the time’ and it’s really changed the definition of quality, with each individual consumer’s values playing a significant role in the perception of quality to them. While these trends are mainly evident in developed markets, they are becoming more prominent in developing markets. Consumers in developing markets are also becoming more particular about their fruit and vegetable choices, with more and more factors contributing to their purchase decisions. In the US market, there are a number of good examples of New Zealand produce that are hitting the mark with American consumers. Of late we’ve seen increased sales of a number of varieties of New Zealand produce. Some of the new cultivars of New Zealand apples have proven very popular and are really fitting the flavour profiles of what US customers are looking for. These new cultivars are a great example of the work that has been done here to develop produce that meets the requirements of a specific target market. Kiwifruit is another area of real potential in the US. Consumption at this point in time is pretty minimal across the States, however, it’s considered to be quite exotic and there has been some good recent progress in getting greater numbers of Americans to give it a try. The New Zealand fruit and vegetable industry needs to preserve its brand equity and continue investment in the sector to maximise the returns from exported produce. The industry will need to ensure that it maintains its reputation as a grower of top quality, safe, sustainably-produced produce as well as continuing to invest in R&D that progresses technologies and growing systems to deliver produce which meets the requirements of today’s consumers. Dr Roland Fumasi is Rabobank’s California based senior fruit and vegetable analyst. He delivered a keynote address at the Horticulture New Zealand conference in Tauranga. Rising incomes in the developing world have changed global eating habits over the past 25 years, and this has favoured the fruit and vegetable category. While we’ve seen minimal change in global consumption of food categories such as cereals, pulses and oil-crops over this period, the fruit and vegetable category has flourished, with global consumption rising from approximately 175kg per capita per year in the early 1990s to well over 250kg per capita per year in recent years. This trend of increased fruit and vegetable consumption in developing countries is expected to continue over the coming decade, and over this period we also expect to see the percentage of the global middle-classes based in the Asia-Pacific region to climb higher and higher. This is obviously a big plus for New Zealand, given its proximity to markets in this region. While there is great potential to increase fruit and vegetable exports into developing countries, New Zealand’s global reputation as a supplier of top quality produce means it should also be looking to target increased exports into developed markets in countries such as the US, Japan, Australia, the EU and Canada where consumers could pay premium prices. Fresh produce from New Zealand is very highly regarded not only in the US, but around the globe. New Zealand also stacks up really well in the fruit and vegetable export arena, due to factors such as the strong industry organisation present here, New Zealand’s ability to supply counter-seasonal produce, and the ease of doing business with Kiwi companies. There are some limitations to New Zealand’s export capability, such as the relatively limited availability of land and labour, and this does reduce the ability to increase fruit and vegetable production levels. However, these limitations emphasise the need to focus on maximising the value of what is produced here.
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