NZ horticulture exports resilient in the year of the COVID-19 pandemic

New Zealand horticulture exports weathered the effects of COVID-19 to reach new heights, climbing to a record-breaking $6.6 billion in the year ending 30 June 2020. This is an increase of $450 million from the previous year, and more than 11% of New Zealand’s merchandise exports.

The data come from “Fresh Facts“, published annually by Plant & Food Research and Horticulture New Zealand to provide key statistics covering the whole of New Zealand’s horticulture industries.

According to latest edition, the value of the total New Zealand horticulture industry exceeded $10 billion for the first time in 2020.

New Zealand horticultural produce was exported to 128 countries in 2020. The top five markets were Continental Europe, Japan, the USA, Australia and China. Exports to Asia were $2.76 billion, 42% of total NZ horticulture exports.

Kiwifruit, apples and avocadoes made up most of New Zealand’s fresh fruit exports, earning $2.5, $0.9 and $0.1 billion respectively in 2020. An extraordinary 51 countries received New Zealand kiwifruit, 65% went to Asian countries.

Included was a new red kiwifruit cultivar, marketed as Zespri Red Kiwifruit in Singapore and Japan by mid-2020. In 2020 New Zealand exported over 50% more apples by weight than it did a decade ago. The 402,000 tonnes of apples exported in 2020 were produced by 990 orchards and 57 packhouses.

The value of New Zealand wine exported reached $1.9 billion, an increase of 84% in in the last decade. During this time, production volume of wine also grew from 266,000 tonnes in 2010, to 457,000 tonnes in 2020. The main variety grown in 2020 was Sauvignon blanc, accounting for more than two thirds of commercial wine crops

Fresh vegetable exports remained static at $300 million, however processed vegetables increased to $424 million. Our top processed vegetable exports were potatoes ($106.9 million) and peas ($115.4 million). Squash exports had a significant 24% increase in the past year to $79 million in 2020. Vegetable seed export earnings have increased by 95% over the last decade to $112 million, predominantly due to increased demand for carrot and radish seed.

“In a year affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, New Zealand’s horticulture industry has demonstrated resilience and our produce is more in demand than ever. Our reputation for high quality and safe food, combined with excellent growing systems and novel products, is vital in maintaining New Zealand’s share of the global marketplace,” says David Hughes, CEO, Plant & Food Research.

Horticulture New Zealand Chief Executive, Nadine Tunley says it is great that the horticulture industry has continued to grow despite COVID-19.

“Horticulture has the potential to lead New Zealand’s economic recovery and play an important role in climate change mitigation. However, if horticulture is to reach its true potential, government policies around seasonal labour, highly productive land and freshwater, investment in research and development, and compliance must be supportive. At the moment, there is a disconnect between what is being said about our industry’s potential and central and local government decisions that affect growers on the ground.”

The latest issue of Fresh Facts, as well as all previous issues, can be read at

Key facts

  • Produce from the New Zealand horticultural sector exceeded $10 billion in the year to 30 June 2020.

  • The total value of horticultural exports was $6.6 billion in 2020, $450 million more than in 2019.

  • The biggest horticultural export was kiwifruit ($2.5 billion). Other key exports were wine ($1.9 billion), apples ($876 million), and onions ($148 million).

  • Exports to five markets ‒ Continental Europe, Australia, the USA, China and Japan ‒ accounted for $4.5 billion and 68% of the total exports.

  • The diversity of horticultural products exported was apparent in the 25 products exported to Asia, each valued between $5 million and over $1.5 billion, and to Australia with 16 categories, each valued between $5 million and over $361 million FOB value.

  • Honey exports went to 62 countries, with a total value of $424 million FOB (Consistent with other entries in Fresh Facts, honey exports are not included in totals).

Source:  Plant & Food Research

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog