Growth in the industry and in consumption has all been based around the rapid rise in the popularity of the specialty tomatoes; i.e. vine ripened, on the vine, both standard size and smaller, and the plum and cherry types.
The range of varieties grown has increased dramatically through the specialty varieties and most are of Dutch origin. Some are traditional types, while others are vine ripened or long shelf life. cherry or cocktail tomatoes. The larger growers now also grow speciality tomatoes (e.g. small, medium and large varieties on the truss, tray packed, or loose in bags, plus some small and normal size plum tomatoes). The range of speciality and pre-packed tomatoes has increased dramatically in the last four to five years. Otherwise the main product is "standard round loose tomatoes". In the North Island, most fruit is picked without the calyx while the opposite occurs in the South Island.
By comparison the outdoor fresh tomato sector is more stable but quite small by comparison. Fresh tomatoes produced outdoors are seasonal and are usually only one part of a grower's annual production schedule. The traditional small pockets of production continue to exist in Northland, Auckland, in Horowhenua and Otaki, Gisborne, Marlborough, Nelson and Christchurch.
Approximately 50,000 tonnes of field grown tomatoes are produced each year, in Hawkes Bay and Gisborne, mainly for processing into paste but with some also going to canning. Volumes are expected to remain constant in the near future with a little over 600 ha in production. Research priorities include integrated pest management, improved irrigation and cultivation practices and research into sustainable land management. The industry projects further value adding opportunities with the expansion of new product lines. New canned tomato products reflecting the popularity of ethnic tastes such as Indian and Mediterranean recipes are an area of recent growth. Export processed tomato products average about 3,000 tonnes at $3.5M FOB.