First Fresh News

Good persimmon season with increased exports to US

One of New Zealand's leading persimmon exporters is expecting a good increase in volumes this season, due to additional plantings and existing growers increasing their acreage.

Managing Director of First Fresh, Ian Albers says the local market harvests began this week on  farms in Gisborne located on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, after some favourable growing conditions in previous months.

"We had a pretty decent spring and the Gisborne summer was a good mix of heat and moisture, so growing conditions have been good all the way through," he said. "Some parts of the country have been pretty dry, but Gisborne has been OK. We are expecting a 15-20 per cent increase in volumes."

The increase in volumes over the previous seasons has led to the company now marketing around 70 per cent of New Zealand's total persimmon crop.

"For us, a good persimmon is sweet and crunchy, and has a good mix of tropical flavours," Mr Albers said. "The botanical name Dispyros Kaki actually translates to 'fruit of the gods'. We grow a Japanese variety called the Fuyu. There is an early variety called Wase Fuyu, which just means early Fuyu, which is the same strain, but just matures slightly earlier. We have a strict  standard for export which is set by NZ’s Persimmon Industry Council to ensure all fruit from NZ is of a minimum standard. This includes both external and internal quality measures.

First Fresh's season runs between April and August, with the main export season starting early May and around 60 per cent of the production exported. The major export destination has been Australia, followed by Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia. Mr Albers says access to the United States markets is just beginning.

"We finally got access to the US market at the end of last season," he said. "So, our intention is to ramp that program up  this year, but do that in a measured way, so we are meeting the needs of the customers over there and finding out where NZ Persimmons can fill a market gap.

Not all of the fruit is sold on the fresh market, with some third-party companies manufacturing it into pulp, dairy free ice cream style desert, or dried persimmon products. He adds that the fresh fruit is quite popular in the export markets, particularly Asia.

"Persimmons are pretty well known in Australia as well," Mr Albers said. "They have a domestic supply that starts earlier than us, and we come in on the back of that."

For more information:
Ian Albers
FIRST FRESH (NZ) LTD
Tel: +64 6 8692132 
E-mail ian.albers@firstfresh.co.nz
www.firstfresh.co.nz