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Stormy Fruit brand

This year, New Zealand is experiencing decreasing yields of fruits and vegetables

The market gardening industry in New Zealand is facing a crisis this year due to various adverse weather conditions, including Hurricane Gabrielle. To mitigate the damage, they are promoting a campaign to sell “ugly produce”.

The fruit and vegetable industry in the main growing areas of the North Island has been affected by a series of severe weather events, with Cyclone Gabrielle being the most significant. While growers in the South Island are working hard to meet demand, the industry is facing an unprecedented crisis.

Horticulture New Zealand CEO Nadine Tunley expressed concern over the current situation, stating that empty supermarket shelves are not a common sight in the country. She also acknowledged the efforts of South Island growers to meet the demand, but highlighted the enormity of the task they face.

Ms. Tunley suggests that one solution could be to re-evaluate the quality standards for selling produce. For instance, the Countdown supermarket chain has initiated the Odd Bunch program which enables consumers to buy imperfect products at a discounted price. This approach has been successfully implemented in France for several years to prevent waste, and allows for a 50% reduction in the selling price.

The Yummy Fruit Company, based in Hawke’s Bay, launched a campaign in 2019 after a severe hailstorm caused blemishes on much of their stone fruit. The company used the tagline “Sounds funny, but still delicious” to promote the sale of the imperfect fruits.

Ugly but good

The Golden Bay Fruit Company is planning to relaunch its Stormy Fruit brand, a marketing initiative used in 2021 to sell slightly imperfect but still edible produce, following the impact of Cyclone Gabrielle. Pieter de Wet, one of the company’s managers, believes that the Odd Bunch campaign will prevent empty shelves and limit financial losses for producers during a critical time. Normally, 20-30% of Countdown’s avocados are sold through the Odd Bunch campaign, but due to extreme weather conditions resulting in smaller fruit sizes, this proportion could rise to 50-60%. Although the produce may be smaller than normal, it does not necessarily mean a decrease in quality.

In a bid to help the growers affected by Cyclone Gabrielle, Countdown has announced a grant of $700,000. Additionally, it has promised to promote the products of the affected growers in Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne on its online store and in its physical stores.

Kiwifruit production down 20%

Due to adverse weather conditions, the kiwifruit harvest, which is New Zealand’s main fruit export, is expected to decrease by 20% this season. Zespri, a major player in the industry, also anticipates a 40% decline in its profits in 2023. The late spring frost, poor pollination, and severe flooding caused by Hurricane Gabrielle are responsible for this. The regions of Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne were the hardest hit, with orchards and vineyards suffering heavy losses, up to 75% in some cases. Additionally, floodwaters could contaminate the fruits, making them unsuitable for consumption and requiring their disposal. This could significantly weaken the entire sector, and producers are now hoping for better weather in 2024.