New Zealand’s apple and pear growers and exporters have welcomed news of the China Free Trade Agreement (FTA) upgrade and substantial progress with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
NZ Apples & Pears chief executive, Alan Pollard, praised the efforts made by Trade Minister David Parker, Minister of State for Trade and Export Growth Damien O’Connor, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade negotiators to progress these two critical agreements.
“In 2019, over half of our exports have gone to Asia, with China becoming our second largest market,” Pollard says. “Retaining a high-quality agreement with China is critical for us to maintain our advantage in that market, and the outcome reflects the very positive relationship that exists between our two governments.
“With the RCEP covering around half the world’s population, and the hope that India (who we are yet to conclude a bilateral agreement with) will reconsider its participation at a later date, the opportunities that these agreements present for our industry are substantial.”
This year, New Zealand apple and pear exports will reach almost 400,000 tonnes, the largest export volume in the industry’s history.
“In 2013, the industry set a target of being a billion-dollar export industry by 2022 and we are well on track to achieve that,” Pollard says.
“The government’s success in achieving very good trade and market access outcomes gives industry confidence to continue to invest in new plantings and new technologies to ensure that we can take advantage of these opportunities as they open up. If we can’t meet that increasing demand our competitors will.”
However, Pollard cautions that access to reliable seasonal and permanent labour remains a concern. At the 2018 Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) conference, Immigration Minister Lees-Galloway challenged industries to address five key areas including creating employment opportunities for New Zealanders and ensuring that New Zealanders are not displaced in urban housing.
“Our industry is well advanced in meeting all five challenges the Minister raised. Our expectation now is that the government will honour their commitment to support businesses to access the workers they need to harvest our crops."