Peas and corn
Peas and corn are the main crops grown organically for processing, and are sold canned or frozen. One of the largest companies, Heinz Wattie’s, increased the amount of organic vegetables they grew throughout the 1990s, and established Kowhai Farm for joint research with Lincoln University.
Beetle banks were set up at Kowhai Farm, in Canterbury. They are grassy ridges at the centre or edges of paddocks which provide bugs with a refuge from predatory insects and spiders. In spring, many of these useful bugs move on to the crops to devour pest insects.
Organic kiwifruit has been the main product of the organics industry. Its production grew rapidly from 13,000 trays in 1991 to over 3 million in 2000. Most organic orchards are in Bay of Plenty, the country’s main kiwifruit-growing area. The proportion of organic kiwifruit production (about 6% of the total) stayed the same from the early 2000s, as consumers were unwilling to pay higher prices for the organic fruit.
Exports of organic apples began in the mid-1990s. Although there was a high demand and price for these apples, few growers initially opted to become certified organic producers. Research had shown that it would be difficult to control insect pests and black spot fungus in organic orchards, and the sulphur and copper sprays allowed under organic regulations were harmful to apple trees. However, by 2007 around 9% of the nation’s apple crop was organic, and these apples accounted for $52.5 million or 14% of the export earnings from apples. Conventional apple growers combine some organic methods with integrated pest management techniques to produce apples with minimal chemical residues.
At first most organic dairy production and processing in New Zealand was aimed at the domestic market, and supplied milk, yogurt and cheeses. Since 2005 Fonterra, New Zealand’s main dairy processor and exporter, has attempted to increase the number of certified organic dairy farms and the amount of organic milk for export. By 2007 there were about 70 certified organic dairy farms in New Zealand.
Meat and wool
There has been limited conversion to organics in the meat sector, and in 2008 organic meat accounted for less than 1% of total meat exports. The most popular meat is lamb, for the UK market.
There is some interest in organic wool, especially for baby clothes and blankets.
There is steady demand for most horticultural crops in the domestic market, and for some crops in the export market. These include fresh and processed vegetables, grains, pulses, avocados, berries and other fruits, and nuts. Other growth areas include organic wine, beer, juices, honey and seafood, as well as toiletries and cosmetics.