Mar 15 2014

TomatoesNZ Report for March 2014

Fresh tomato exports in 2013

In the 2013 calendar year:

  • 2,714 tonnes of fresh tomatoes were exported, with a FOB value of NZ$8.44m.

  • Exports went to 22 countries.

  • Australia still dominates the tomato export markets, receiving 45% of the volume; Japan is second at 18%, New Caledonia at 10% and USA at 9%.

  • Australian exports were down about 30% on the 2012 year.

  • The average value for exports was $3.11Kg.

  • Exports have continued their decline from a 2011 peak (when Australia was affected by the Queensland floods) of 4,900t and $15.3m.  In 2012, 3,203t worth $10.3m were exported.

Exporters say that demand from Australia in early 2013 was particularly low, which contributed to the reduced volume to that market last year.  

Fresh tomatoes from low-tech Mexican growers and Canadian glasshouse crops (where 130ha of new glass has been built) is competing directly with NZ supply in the USA, Canada, and Japan. Exports to USA were on a growth curve from 2007, but last year were around one third lower last year than in 2012.   Both North American growers and European growers have established production partnerships in Mexico, and Mexican fruit quality and volumes have increased over the past couple of years. Additionally, Mexican growers are close enough to seafreight to Japan making them increasingly competitive in that market too, whereas NZ growers currently rely on airfreight to Japan.

The graph below is from the Statistics New Zealand online article - "Fresh fruit and vegetable prices - our global connection" (available on their website).  The graph plots the retail price for fresh tomatoes (collected weekly for the Consumer Price Index analysis from retail outlets in 15 regional centres) against tomato import and export volumes by month for the past eight years. The impact or imports on the maximum price peak can clearly be seen by comparing the peak price in the last three winters with earlier winters.

Season update

Growers are reporting the lowest February wholesale prices in recent years with most sales being below $1.20. The cause seems to be a combination of poor February demand and warm growing conditions in the North Island boosting volumes. South Island growers, however, have reported that cool nights have reduced pest pressure, reduced the home garden crop and resulted in good fruit quality.

There is speculation that the low February demand is becoming a bit of a trend bought on by tight family budgets in the back-to-school period, the wide range of alternative seasonal produce in February, and home-gardens peaking in production. There has also been an oversupply of pre-packs on the market, which has dragged those prices down to unsustainable levels.

Exporters report that there have been, and continue to be good opportunities in Australia this summer.  However they are not moving as much product offshore as they would like to because they have been unable to source volumes of the required types and grown and packed under the Loose Tomato Fruit to Australia Compliance Programme protocols.  Exporters say that this should not be an unsurmountable requirement for growers that are interested in supplying the export market via a registered packhouse. If you are interested in knowing more about supplying for export, please get in touch with me.

Conference 2014

Registration for the 2014 AGM and conference are now open online www.pmafreshconnections.com.au .  We have some exciting speakers lined up for a joint afternoon session with the other vegetable sectors on the product group day. Profiles of two of the speakers can be found on page 13 of this magazine.

TomatoesNZ is offering its members the opportunity to claim back the registration fee for the product group day of the conference (24th June), plus up to $300 towards the cost of travel and accommodation.

If you want to take advantage of this should register yourself for the conference and submit a claim form (which will be posted to tomato growers in March and available on our website) to me with receipts attached. The funding pool is limited to about 15 growers, so funding will be provided (for one person per tomato growing entity) on a first-in-first served basis.