Asian markets still open

18 Sep 2018

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Guest Blog – Richard Palmer

Asia Fruit Logistica 2018 took place in Hong Kong in the first week in September (we’re glad to not be there this week as Typhoon Mangkhut strikes the city), and proved to be another successful event for New Zealand exhibitors. Participating New Zealand exporters were kept busy with existing and new customers, in a frantic week of meetings and social functions. The New Zealand stand, supported by Horticulture New Zealand, Plant and Food Research, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, and New Zealand Apples and Pears, was once again a busy hub for those exporters who took part.

The exhibition grew again in 2018 with a 10% increase in floor space and visitor numbers up. It was interesting to note an increase in exhibitors from Europe again this year, as they focus on new export markets in Asia.

While demand grows for New Zealand’s premium quality fresh produce, there remain international and domestic challenges to fully meeting this market opportunity. In the background, the China - United States trade war is driving some odd behaviours of US produce exporters, in turn affecting our markets, as well as creating an opening for countries to adopt a less liberal trade approach as the US regime continues to threaten withdrawal from the World Trade Organisation. This brings some uncertainty for New Zealand exporters, and further demonstrates the importance of a cohesive, progressive international rules based system, of which our country has long been a champion.

Domestically, there remains a shortfall in overall agency capacity to drive new and improved market access for New Zealand’s fresh produce exports – crucial, as our sector grows both in value and broadens with new high value fruit and vegetables being planted. The horticultural sector continues to offer a high-value opportunity to diversify New Zealand’s primary industry and supply global, premium, niche customers, which still requires a shift in thinking across the policy spectrum.    

While we showcased our high value exports in Hong Kong, there was a sensible decision by Tasman District Council on the Waimea Dam, overturning the previous week’s council decision. With water over-allocation and continuing growth in urban demand, the Council finally recognised the need to secure water for human consumption, to lift river flows, and to maintain economic activity. This investment in infrastructure - providing certainty to horticultural businesses, among others - is crucial to making the high capital investment that modern horticultural production requires.

Let’s hope that some cohesion, from the New Zealand paddock to the international consumer’s plate, that enables New Zealand’s economic wellbeing, can be realised by all parties working together for New Zealanders.

- Richard Palmer, DCEO