Story: Farming in the economy

Page 9. Horticulture and viticulture

All images & media in this story


Although pastoral products remained the core of New Zealand’s export trade, there was considerable growth in horticulture since the 1980s.

Apples were exported from the middle of the 20th century, and they continued to be an important crop. In 1980 New Zealand exported $35.75 million worth of apples; by 1995 this had increased to $800 million.

The growth of the kiwifruit industry was even more spectacular. Exports started in 1953, but the industry expansion really began in the 1970s. In 1980 kiwifruit exports were valued at $34.5 million; 10 years later they were $540 million. By 2007 they had increased to $756.8 million, and both production and prices were forecast to keep rising.


There have been vineyards in New Zealand since early in the 19th century, but they were on a very small scale. In 1920 there were about 102 hectares planted in wine grapes. By 1960 this had increased to only 350 hectares, half of which were in the Auckland region. The vast majority – 87% – went into making fortified wines.

Wine production slowly increased, and by 1970 nearly 1,500 hectares were planted in wine grapes. Most was in Auckland, Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne, with only 2.8 hectares in the South Island.

In 1990 wine exports earned $18.4 million, with Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough being the main wine-producing areas. During the 1990s Marlborough became easily the largest wine-producing region in New Zealand. The industry also developed in other areas, including Central Otago, Waipara, Martinborough and Waiheke Island.

By 2000, there was 10,000 hectares planted in wine grapes. Earnings increased to $168.6 million, with the export of nearly 20 million litres of wine. In 2007 this had grown to 72 million litres, which earned nearly $662.4 million. Production was expected to rise by 66% between 2008 and 2011.

How to cite this page:

Robert Peden, 'Farming in the economy - Horticulture and viticulture', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 20 June 2024)

Story by Robert Peden, published 24 Nov 2008