New Zealand onion and carrot exporter faces challenging season

A New Zealand onion and carrot exporter admits weather and European trade windows have made it a challenging season.

Harvest Fresh exports over 30,000 tonnes of onions from New Zealand and Australia, and its Managing Director, Guy Hilson, says it has been one of the worst seasons for logistics, with harvesting disrupted throughout New Zealand due to bad weather.

On top of that, the exporter’s main window in Europe was shorter this year.

"Harvest Fresh has seen the European domestic supply carry on longer with the retailers, and therefore our window has been shortened.“

But Guy Hilson says they’re fortunate to have a strong and loyal grower base across the country that has given them a good supply, for challenging seasons such as this one.

Closer to home, Harvest Fresh is also strong in Indonesia, which is growing both in volume and price.

"Really we are the only supply region in the market," Mr Hilson said. "As long as that continues, the Indonesian market will be a great option. They can't take 60-70,000 tonnes over there, but it’s a strong market and we have a presence there “

“The demand in Indonesia is for smaller onions. That is a restrictive factor; if you grow for that market the yields are down so you need a higher price. So it's more a balancing act."

While there has not been a major change in onion varieties, Harvest Fresh  Export Manager, Michael Croft, says  there have been some subtle changes.

"Such as moving away from the softer varieties. They were previously quite popular, but the shelf life is less."

It was a much better growing season for Harvest Fresh's other export produce, carrots which is mid-season. The company works exclusively with the country's largest grower packer, Pypers  Produce, to export around 5,000 tonnes of the Nantes variety a year. The main markets are the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan, but Michael believes there is plenty of room for expansion. 

Australia is New Zealand's major competitor, but Harvest Fresh believes they can out-compete. "The only downside is that we can’t supply carrots for 12 month period due to growing conditions." But Mr Hilson cites market access as the biggest challenge, when the customer has domestic supply.

"When that domestic supply is there, it's difficult for them to import," he said. "The challenge is to manage that and look for markets where domestic supply does not affect their ability to import. So when they don't have domestic supply, or the quality is not as good, we can ship on a regular basis."

For more information, please contact:
Guy Hilson
Harvest Fresh
Tel: +64 9 412 5634
Mob: +64 21 431 926