NZ: Japanese yen gain to hurt buttercup squash exporters

The New Zealand dollar is expected to gain the most against the Japanese yen this year, providing a significant headwind for buttercup squash exporters in their largest market, following an 8.5 percent rise in the cross-rate last year.

Eight of 19 currency strategists, traders and economists surveyed by BusinessDesk picked the yen to be the weakest currency of New Zealand's major trading partners in 2015 as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attempts to revive the world's third-largest economy and boost growth.

That's an unwelcome prediction for New Zealand's squash industry, the nation's fourth largest horticultural export, which sent almost three quarters of its overseas product to Japan in the year through November. Squash growers, who have just started harvesting this year's crop and are facing lower yields due to drought, are eyeing diversification into other markets such as China to reduce their reliance on Japan.

A weaker yen "just takes profit off the bottom line and where it is sitting currently is pretty unsustainable long term," said NZ Buttercup Squash Council business manager Matthew Spence.

The council has stepped up its marketing efforts in Korea, its second-largest export destination, in a bid to boost demand for New Zealand squash in the Korean off-season ahead of looming tariff reductions. So far it has spent $1.5 million of growers' money on instore product promotions, a Korean consumer-based website and other public relations.

Once the free-trade deal between the two countries comes into force, the squash industry is expecting a pick up in sales as the 27 percent tariff is removed over five years.

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