Island produce exporters no match for Asian fruit juggernaut


In last week’s <strong>Pacific Periscope</strong>, we featured PT&amp;I’s research on the Pawpaw/ Papaya trade outlining how countries like the Philippines had overtaken exports from Cook Islands and Fiji to New Zealand over the past few years. <!--more--><a href=""><img class="size-full wp-image-3727 alignright" title="bananas" src="" alt="" width="138" height="104" /></a>We also noted that the Cook Islands’ pawpaw exports had dropped to zero last year, while Fiji was suffering the ravages of successive flooding following heavy rains.

Research by PT&amp;I’s New Zealand offices has also helped throw light on how and why Asian growers have stolen a march over fruit exports from the islands, with whom New Zealand has had traditional trading ties for decades. The answers are not far to seek.

What differentiates Pacific Islands and Asian grower-exporters like those from the Philippines are scale, reliable supply, investment in technology, and strong partnerships in the market (in this case New Zealand).

In banana exports for instance, one large grower from the Philippines has a strong partner-distributor in New Zealand that ensures distribution in several big grocery chains as well as specialty fruit shops. This is of course made possible by the scale that enable constancy of supply, something which smaller islands lack both because of their size and infrastructure.

The Filipino company, while being 100 per cent owned in the Philippines, owns its banana farms, invests heavily in research and development facilities, IT, marketing, and even has a fully integrated logistics division, including its own ships.

Its New Zealand partner, on its part, offers sophisticated ripening rooms in New Zealand and efficient distribution and marketing. These are tough challenges for Pacific islands grower-exporters to surmount if they have ambitions of entering the New Zealand market on a comparable scale.

The answer perhaps lies in a completely different strategy. Some ideas could be niche markets, value additions and other marketing initiatives.