Anaru Timutimu is the chairman of the Māori Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (MKGI) and also a shareholder in the largest Māori kiwifruit operation in the country, Ngai Tukairangi Trust, based in Tauranga. In an interview with Rural News, he said it would be good to see Māori in leadership roles throughout the industry.
At present, Māori-owned kiwifruit orchards produce 13.9 million trays of gold and green fruit each year or about 10% of New Zealand's total kiwifruit exports. Māori own nearly 1,200 hectares of land devoted to kiwifruit - most of which is in the Bay of Plenty region. The largest Māori kiwifruit growing areas are Tauranga, Te Puke and Te Kaha.
Māori Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (MKGI) was formed in 2016. It is an independent lobby and advocacy group representing Māori growers in New Zealand and beyond. MKGI's board has representatives of various Māori trusts and incorporations involved in growing kiwifruit across the country.
Timutimu says the kiwifruit industry is a great one for Māori to be involved in. "It's a good industry to be involved in because it means our people can stay close to where they are from and don't necessarily have to move to the cities," he told Rural News.
Success of early Māori adopters starting to catch on
While Te Kaha may be a hub, other trusts and incorporations are also taking the plunge and moving into kiwifruit. In many cases, Māori trusts are incorporating kiwifruit into their overall operations. For example, Tunapahore B2A Incorporation at Hawai has 5ha of kiwifruit.
Along the east coast, maize has been a crop grown by Māori or by others on land leased to them by Māori. But now kiwifruit and other high values crops are starting to appear, says Anaru Timutimu.
Timutimu says this means more jobs for young Māori and a cash injection for whanau and the local economy. "There is a distinct advantage in Te Kaha with their mild micro climate, which means their fruit matures earlier than other regions, attracting a premium price for early start," he says.
Photo source: Maorikiwifruitgrowers.com