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Alastair Hulbert CEO at T&G

"Business as usual" at T&G after shares change hands"

This week it was announced that Golden Wing Mau, a leading Chinese fresh produce business had bought a 19.9% share in New Zealand's T&G.

"This was completely independent from BayWa and T&G and is purely a transaction between Golden Wing Mau and two other shareholders in the company," explains Alastair Hulbert CEO at T&G. "T&G were not involved in the transaction, for us it is business as usual. We have done business with Golden Wing Mau for many years and we will be exploring any relationship there is to be had over time. Hopefully their holding will give us more opportunities in China."

The Chinese purchase has yet to be officially approved. It is expected that the deal will be completed around 15 September.

T&G have been doing business in China for many years, it is one of their biggest markets and they have an office in Shanghai. The company exports products from all around the world into China, the main ones are apples, grapes and cherries in similar volumes.

"From a New Zealand perspective I'm very positive about the industry and its future," comments Hulbert. "T&G will maintain a position in all markets in the world. There has been a lot of growth in Asia in recent years which is continuing, especially in the new markets such as Myanmar and Vietnam. There has been a lot of growth in sales in these markets. There has also been a lot of growth in our Jazz programs in Europe, in Germany, France and the UK."

T&G's Envy apple continues to make inroads into the US market and there will be increased plantings in the coming years, with sales values and volumes increasing each year. The company already sends New Zealand grown Envy apples to the Chinese market and with the US expected to gain access to the Chinese market soon, US grown Envy will also be sent there.

In February T&G announced a partnership with Zespri to market kiwifruit in Thailand, where T&G are well established and the Jazz apple brand is well known. "The partnership has increased the volumes of gold kiwifruit into the market which was the intention, and it is going very well," according to Hulbert. "We have only been selling kiwifruit since the start of this season, around two and half months, but it has been meeting all the expectations so far. On the T&G side, the Zespri brand is very well known it works very well from a New Zealand perspective. Put it together with the Jazz and Envy brands and you have a have a very strong New Zealand brand proposition in the market."

More and more counties are gaining access to the Chines market, how can T&G stay ahead of the game?

"We will always back ourselves with our brands, our quality and our service," said Hulbert. "Asia is a big market and there is still a lot room for growth, with our IP and products we intend to always to be at the forefront of consumer's demand in these markets."

There has been speculation about the Chinese economy of late and according to Hulbert, from a demand perspective it is not where it was a few years ago. "Now the economy is slowing down a little but if you have a good product, quality and brand you will continue to have strong sales, but if you are not in that category things are starting to slow down and we have seen signs of that already."

T&G has been in the Middle East and Indian markets from many years, but are focussing more on Asia and the US at the moment.

Hulbert does not see T&G going down the convenience path, "We are more about our fresh produce, we have a big program of ready to eat avocados in the UK together with subsidiary Worldwide Fruit, which has seen massive growth but we won't be going for the fresh-cut market."

He doesn't see changing currency rates as a problem for the future as T&G have a very structured approach to foreign exchange and have full cover against currency fluctuations.

Hulbert reckons that the biggest challenges in the future will remain environmental issues, food safely, water resources and people. "It is always a challenge to find the right people, from people to harvest crops, technical people right up to people for management positions."