Consumers across the world may soon be experiencing tastier, fuller-sized blueberries year-round, thanks to a new breeding partnership in blueberries that will bring premium quality berries to customers across the world.
Plant & Food Research and global fresh produce company T&G Global have announced they are entering into a new agreement to breed and commercialise exciting new varieties of blueberries to be sold globally.
The breeding programme will produce new varieties of blueberry that will provide improved yield and resistance to disease while also delivering consumers larger, tastier berries over a longer period, with an extended harvest season.
The first new commercial varieties could be launched globally in the next 12 months under T&G Global’s Orchard Rd brand.
“Blueberries are a key strategic play for us in building our global portfolio, and we’re delighted to build another global category to emulate the success of our premium apple brands. We know there is strong consumer demand for blueberries and teaming up with Plant & Food Research means we get access to a pipeline of world-class varieties,” says Gareth Edgecombe, CEO of T&G Global.
“Securing exclusive rights to the best varieties is the first step in our strategy to build multiple global verticals that drive and enable value and add demand through strong consumer brands,” he says.
The new partnership builds on an existing agreement that grants the global fresh produce grower and marketer, T&G Global, access to a suite of Plant & Food Research-bred and licensed blueberry varieties for production in Australia.
“Plant & Food Research and T&G Global have a strong relationship that began at their legacy organisations in the 1990s,” says David Hughes, CEO Plant & Food Research.
“T&G has an excellent track record of commercialising our varieties, most notably the apples branded JAZZ™ and Envy™. We are looking forward to continuing building on this history and delivering excellent blueberries for New Zealand and global consumers,” he says.
New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) supports the Ministry of Social Development’s (MSD) declaration of a labour shortage for the kiwifruit industry in the Bay of Plenty and the extension of the labour shortage in the Hawkes Bay. The BOP declaration announced is for the period 15 April until 27 May 2019.
There is a current shortfall of over 1,400 vacancies in the Bay of Plenty’s kiwifruit industry which is expected to increase to 3,800 at harvest’s peak around mid-April. There was a shortfall of 1,200 vacancies at the peak of harvest in 2018.
NZKGI CEO Nikki Johnson says, “The industry has been working hard to attract labour for this year’s harvest. NZKGI has been running a media campaign to promote work in our sector and early signals indicate that this has gone some way in reducing the number of vacancies.
“However, it is vital to our industry that there is enough seasonal labour for harvest, and we currently don’t have enough people to pick and pack the intended crop. So it is entirely prudent and good risk management for MSD to take this step in support of our campaign.
“We would encourage people – kiwis and visitors – to come and enjoy working in an industry that exports an iconic piece of kiwiana overseas.”
Kiwifruit industry employers have been working closely with the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) to place New Zealanders in vacant roles. Between January and April 2019, MSD has placed nearly 500 job seekers into the kiwifruit industry. Despite this more workers are still needed. The declaration of a seasonal labour shortage allows overseas visitors who already hold visitor visas to apply to vary the conditions of their visas for working in kiwifruit in the Bay of Plenty.
Overseas visitors are encouraged to visit the New Zealand Immigration website where detailed information about varying the conditions of a visa can be found.
To date over 90 % of this season’s total kiwifruit crop is yet to be harvested. It is forecast that a similar amount of fruit is required to be packed this year in comparison to last year. This includes an increase of 12 % of SunGold kiwifruit which requires packing in a short period of time.
Johnson says NZKGI seeks to employ New Zealanders as a first priority, especially kiwis who live in regions with orchards and packhouses. Work and Income has given help to people that need transport from other parts of BOP and other Work and Income clients who would like to access this should contact their local office for support. “However, because of the low unemployment rate this is not always possible, and other sources of workers, such as those from the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme and backpackers, are also required.”
She says the industry continues to have robust discussions with Government around increasing the number of workers available under the RSE scheme, as well as other avenues to meet demand during harvest.
NZKGI has recently secured co-funding and employed a labour coordinator to connect employers with workers over harvest and analyse current and future labour demands of the kiwifruit industry, and will use this information to deal with industry growth projections. A University of Waikato report forecasts that the kiwifruit industry contribution to the Bay of Plenty’s GDP will increase 135 % by 2030 to $2.04 billion and require 14,329 new kiwifruit jobs.
The kiwifruit industry is an important contributor to the local Bay of Plenty economy, currently contributing $867 million to the regions GDP and employing 10,762 FTE in the year 2015/2016. The last declaration of a labour shortage for the kiwifruit industry was made in 2018 when the unemployment rate in the Bay of Plenty was 5.9 %. The current unemployment rate is 4.8 %.
-  As of December 2017. Source: Infometrics
-  As of December 2018. Source: Infometrics
Lion NZ announced that it has acquired Kiwi drinks brand, Teza Iced Teas. The purchase forms part of the company’s wider ambition to grow its non-alcoholic beverage portfolio and cater to the increasingly diverse social occasions of New Zealanders.
Sitting alongside the likes of GoodBuzz Kombucha, Hopt and Mac’s Soda, Teza will join Lion’s growing non-alcoholic division, Drinks Collective, which earlier this month also announced a new strategic partnership with flavoured sparking water start-up, Vista.
Teza Iced Teas is part of the Greenstone Drinks Company and was the first real-brewed iced tea in New Zealand. The product is made with batch brewed organic leaf tea, fruit juices and botanicals. Sold in 325 ml glass bottles, the brand offers several unique flavours including Feijoa & Lime Blossom and Lemon & Mandarin.
Stefan Gray, General Manager, Drinks Collective says: “The iced tea market is in strong growth globally so we’re incredibly excited to welcome Teza Iced Teas into the Drinks Collective. The brand’s premium offering complements our existing range nicely and will help us deliver greater choice and convenience for consumers across more social occasions. We’ll be leveraging our networks to make the brand more readily available nationwide and the Teza Grassy Tea Bush Van will also be making a return to the streets of NZ.
“I think typically people associate Lion with alcohol products and don’t realise what an amazing non-alcoholic beverage offering we have – from coffee and juices to low sugar sodas and Kombucha. We have big plans to grow the Drinks Collective as part of our commitment to meeting the evolving world of sociability and by 2025 at least 10 % of Lion’s sales will come from our non-alcoholic range,” adds Gray.
Lion’s Drinks Collective will take full control of the Teza brand and associated assets, with the founders, Joe Gehrke and Daphne Raj, now living in Australia where they are focused on growing their company, Greenstone Drinks Co. They will still be involved in the brand via an agreement which will see them distribute Teza for Lion in the Australian market through Greenstone Drinks Co.
Teza founder Joe Gehrke, says, “We created Teza when we moved home from our stint in the UK. We noticed a real gap in the market for a premium, more natural iced tea offering and are proud of the growth we’ve achieved for the brand so far, including Australia, Japan, and South Korea. We’re thrilled to pass the Teza brand on to Lion who has a proven track record of nurturing and growing strong brands in the Kiwi market. Under Lion, Teza can be taken to the next level.”
New Zealand horticulture had another record breaking year in 2017. The industry was valued at $8.8 billion, up $100 million from 2016, and the total value of exports was close to $5.12 billion, up $14 million from the year before.
According to the latest Fresh Facts, an industry annual published by Plant & Food Research, horticultural produce accounted for 10.3% of New Zealand’s merchandise export income in the year to June 2017. The growth was driven by increases in the export values of fresh and processed fruit (excluding wine), from $2.78 billion to $2.82 billion, and fresh and processed vegetables, from $0.61 billion to 0.62 billion. Kiwifruit continued to be the nation’s top horticultural export at $1.66 billion, accounting for 33% of the total export value. It was followed by wine at $1.54 billion, 30% of the total export value.
New Zealand horticultural produce was exported to 128 countries, with five markets—Australia, Continental Europe, the USA, Japan and China—taking up more than two-thirds of the total exports. Exports to Asia reached $1.95 billion, twice as much as any other continent/region.
“The success of New Zealand horticulture is built on its well-earned reputation of delivering high quality and premium products to the overseas markets,” says David Hughes, CEO, Plant & Food Research. “The horticultural industry must keep up the quality and innovate to offer new products that meet international market needs in order to secure our position. Adopting new technologies and best practices to minimise environmental and social impact of the production process will further strengthen our clean, green image in the global marketplace.”
“The continual growth of the New Zealand horticultural industry attests to the quality of our produce and the hard work of our growers,” says Mike Chapman, Chief Executive of Horticulture New Zealand. “We are confident that the industry will meet the $10 billion by 2020 target as long as we are committed to listening to local and overseas consumers and offering products they want and desire.”