New Zealand’s flower export market rebounds

Japan is New Zealand’s largest market for cymbidium orchids. Photo / 123RF

Kim Moodie from RNZ

Things are looking up for orchid growers, with the flower export market rebounding strongly after being brought to its knees during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

New Zealand’s flower export industry is worth around $20 million a year. Most of it is made up of cymbidium orchids, hydrangeas and peonies.

Covid-19 lockdowns have forced the industry into survival mode, but the head of NZ Bloom, the country’s biggest flower exporter, says the industry has rebounded with big gains for growers the last year.

Managing Director David Ballard said RNZ growers were getting high prices, but international demand for orchids was mixed.

“The big change this year compared to last year is that the yen has weakened a lot; it is, I think, at almost 30-year lows against the US dollar,” he said. he declares.

“Japan is the biggest market for cymbidium orchids, which means the returns from Japan are not as good as we would like, which really means we are trying to move more product to other markets.”

Many growers turned to exporting to the North American market instead, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing there either, Ballard said.

The absence of backpackers means growers have to spend more time picking their crops.  Photo / 123RF
The absence of backpackers means growers have to spend more time picking their crops. Photo / 123RF

“North America, right now, is the strongest market in the world,” he said.

“My caution at the moment is that we’re just entering the downturn around the 4th of July there, so we’ve got a tough couple of weeks to get through that holiday period.

“But in general, we expect the whole season to be a pretty good year for producers. »

The industry has not been immune to chronic labor shortages and global freight disruptions that many exporters have faced, Ballard said.

“In the past, we have used a lot of backpackers to do the winter work in the greenhouses.

“It’s a nice job to do in the winter and under cover in a greenhouse surrounded by flowers.

“But there are very few backpackers and so labor shortages and costs are a big problem for growth.

“Business owners are putting a lot more personal work into it, which is not ideal because it takes away their eyes on running their business, which they should be doing.

“Producers are working really hard to employ more locals and find more people, but that’s not always possible.”

For some, the freight disruptions meant customer service had to be sacrificed in some cases, Ballard said.

“It’s not as flexible as it used to be. It’s quite difficult to fill last-minute orders or change order sizes to suit customers at the last minute.

“We used to be able to do that fairly easily in the pre-Covid days when there were a lot of planes coming in and out of New Zealand and now it’s a lot less flexible which means the quality of our customer service is probably not as good as we would like.”

Ballard expected the cargo issues to ease once flights to and from New Zealand returned to their normal schedules.