Hawke’s Bay is having another record year for apple exports.
CEO Garth Cowie said so far an 8.5 per cent increase on last year had been exported, with a record 22,205 twenty-foot containers shipped.
“Despite a late start to the season and a shortage of pickers, it has been a record harvest for our local growers,” he said.
“Exports through Napier Port were up by more than 2000 twenty-foot containers on last season.”
“It’s great news for the pipfruit industry, and for the Hawke’s Bay economy.”
Volumes are expected to grow further, with an extensive programme of planting underway across the region.
“The pipfruit industry has set a target of achieving $1 billion in exports by 2020 and is well on the way toward achieving that. That’s projected to translate into approximately 35,000 twenty-foot containers for export by 2025.”
For the season to October 2 the port has shipped 22,205 containers.
“This represents significant growth since 2008, when we exported just 12,936 containers of apples through Napier Port.”
Pipfruit New Zealand chief executive Alan Pollard said prices were strong and returns would be another record.
“We haven’t got final numbers – we were forecasting $700 million and are confident of $720 million, which will easily be our export double in four years. In 2012 we did we did $341 million.
“It is a fantastic result and of course two-thirds of that is coming back to Hawke’s Bay.”
While volumes steadily increased, the value increase was mainly due to price.
“It is being driven primarily by New Zealand-exclusive varieties. We have moved the product category out of the commodity space into the high-niche premium-product space.”
Fruit was currently “moving smoothly through the port”, unlike 2014 when apple shipments missed their boats and fruit diverted to other ports as Napier Port struggled with a spike in fruit shipped by containers.
A season two weeks earlier than normal compounded the problem with exporters shipping straight to Asia instead of storage.
Major innovations were added to the port, including an off-site depot for empty containers, a vehicle booking system, new mobile harbour cranes, container handlers that can lift two containers at once and added refrigerated storage.
Mr Cowie said more were planned, not least another wharf, the biggest single investment in the port’s history.
The port is associated with more than half of Hawke’s Bay’s Gross Regional Product and this year is also facing record log volumes, with a record 100 log ships calling so far this year.
Last week KiwiRail and Napier Port signed an agreement for four dedicated log trains on weekends from Wairoa.
The deal, likely to be extended as log harvests increase, reopens the mothballed line using trains idle on the weekend from the port’s other freight services running in the lower North Island.