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Imagine walking into any supermarket in New Zealand and being able to buy a wide range of subtropical fruits grown here. That’s increasingly possible due to some key developments.
Bananas, pineapples, mangoes, papaya, custard apples and others are being grown in New Zealand on an increasing scale. Until recently these were mostly sold at farmers’ markets, and gate stalls. Now supermarkets are beginning to stock locally grown bananas and sugar cane. We soon expect NZ grown pineapples and other tropicals and subtropicals to be on sale.
New Zealand gives high priority to biosecurity and protection which has meant we are not affected by diseases and pests that plague other countries. Consequently, increasing areas are being considered for production of subtropicals given good climate, and the ability to use sustainable and regenerative techniques. There is, therefore, an emergent opportunity for internal market growth. The most popular fruit consumed in New Zealand by volume is bananas. We import and eat 18kg each per year (72,000 tonnes nationally) so there is real potential for import substitution and growth in consumption of NZ grown bananas and associated produce.
Plantings of subtropical fruits, including bananas, pineapples and sugar cane, are expanding in tandem with the expansion of frost-free areas across Aotearoa. These plantings reflect a surge in interest among landowners to try growing different crops. In for example, Northland as climate requirements are beneficial for tropical and subtropical fruits. For example in Parua Bay some growers have plantings of bananas, pineapples, coffee, cherimoya, prickly pear and sugar cane. In more marginal climates, plantings of subtropicals are occurring in unheated greenhouses. Earlier in a previous year Matthew Bergersen from the Bay of Plenty, for example, started trialling an indoor banana growing operation in a greenhouse previously used for cut flower production.
Locally grown bananas and pineapples are ripened naturally and, unlike imported fruit, are grown without sprays or fumigants. Increased local production will also mean New Zealand consumers have more varieties from which to choose. Many different kinds of bananas are grown here, some are citrusy, others creamy-tasting and, their often smaller size makes them convenient for lunch boxes. Honduran, Australian and Lady Finger types (previously grown throughout the Pacific Islands), provide us a wider range of flavours and choice. Likewise, locally grown pineapple types range from a smaller and more tender Queen (see The Orchardist May, 2021) through to the larger more acidic Red and Cayenne type pineapples.
The next step for smaller scale NZ growers or emergent growers is to identify pathways to market and infrastructure and support for growers. One example of how to achieve this is Kotare, a certified multi-site grower based in Northland. Operated by Roslyn Norrie and Geoff Mansell, Kotare Subtropicals brings together growers who previously sold their fruit only at farmers markets. Now, with the existence of Kotare Subtropicals sustainably grown and harvested subtropical produce is becoming more available for consumers in a wider range of retail outlets. For more information contact:
Roslyn Norrie 021838104 Geoff Mansell 0274347041 (Geoff in image above)
An illustration of how a greenhouse banana growing operation would look.