Vine to vessel
Container export of kiwifruit has moved a step closer for local packhouse NZ Fruits now it is leasing an Eastland Port cool store.
“With kiwifruit cool storage now an option at the port the region is strategically placed to export more kiwifruit than ever before,” said NZ Fruits managing director David Fox.
“If it was a container port we would use containers as well.”
Mr Fox said at the moment the kiwifruit that left Eastland Port was shipped out in pallets on reefer vessels only because the port lacked a container facility.
Other fruit destined for smaller markets have to be trucked to the Port of Tauranga and put in containers there.
“Ultimately NZ Fruits would prefer to be dealing with our container share through Eastland Port.”
Mr Fox said there were also environmental reasons for wanting to move more export produce from Eastland Port.
“One ship taking away 1000 pallets (or tonnes) of kiwifruit is equivalent to 41 trucks between Gisborne and Tauranga.”
Starting in early March, Gisborne’s kiwifruit crop remains the earliest in New Zealand to be harvested.
“This year local crops are expected to yield 13,000 tonnes, half of which is packed by NZ Fruits.
“Temperature-regulated storage space in the region is in short supply, and we are thrilled to have signed a lease with Eastland Port for the use of its cool store facility to enable export of our horticultural products.”
The new arrangement, which has seen an old meat freezer retrofitted with state-of-the-art refrigeration facilities, has created what is possibly New Zealand’s shortest supply chain for kiwifruit.
“In some cases, getting the product from vine to vessel may be only two days and 10 kilometres,” Mr Fox said.
Last year NZ Fruits processed 1.5 million trays of kiwifruit, with 850,000 trays leaving the region on four ships.
“With the growth in the local kiwifruit industry, coupled with the release of more licences to grow the SunGold variety, NZ Fruits is looking to increase that to 2.5 million trays from existing growers over the next five years.
“It’s important NZ Fruits can get its fruit efficiently to market. We prefer to use Eastland Port rather than trucking the fruit to Tauranga.”
Port-side cold store facilities were so valuable.
“And not just for us. With fruit also being packaged in Opotiki, that product could be shipped through Eastland Port, too.
“It’s cost neutral, which makes the port and our cool store strategically placed to attract fruit from the Bay of Plenty for shipping.”
Eastland Port commercial manager Hayden Green said containerisation from the port was the goal.
“The port finds itself amid thriving economic activity throughout Tairawhiti,” he said.
“It’s responding by supporting the relevant industries with transport infrastructure that increases supply chain resilience while reducing cost and time to market.
“We’re under way with growth and expansion projects, and improving and creating underlying infrastructure, enabling a greater range of products to be exported.
“When coastal shipping and containerisation opportunities arise we’re keen to support customers’ supply chain needs.”