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THE NEW ZEALAND CITRUS INDUSTRY

Our History

Citrus has been grown in New Zealand since the mid 19th century, with the first commercial orchards planted in Northland, Auckland, and the Bay of Plenty.  Strict import restrictions protected the New Zealand citrus industry in the years after the Second World War, when the Citrus Marketing Authority had the power to acquire all oranges and lemons that weren't sold directly to the consumer.  These restrictions were eliminated in the 1980’s, and the industry now competes freely in a global market.

The New Zealand citrus industry comprises around 1,000 hectares divided between approximately 400 growers most of which are in the Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, and Northland regions.  Approximately $50 million of fruit is produced per annum, and of that around $6 million is exported to overseas markets.  On a global scale, New Zealand's production is very small – we produce only     0.03% of the world's citrus.

Image courtesy of Keith Pyle

Benefits and Disadvantages

Citrus is most productively grown in the subtropics, which means that New Zealand can be a marginal climate for commercial production.  This limits growers to varieties that can still produce well under our growing conditions.  The last twenty years have seen a growth in citrus research in New Zealand with the primary aim being to produce more fruit to export standard so that we can better compete internationally with fruit grown in places that appear much better suited to citrus production, such as California, South Africa, and Queensland.

While the New Zealand citrus industry is at a disadvantage in some ways, in others it is at a distinct advantage.  In recent years a number of major citrus producing regions overseas have suffered from outbreaks of citrus canker, a bacterial disease that causes blemishes on fruit and can cause tree dieback. There is no effective treatment – the only means of control is to remove and burn infected trees.  New Zealand is free from citrus canker, and has no fruit fly problems or citrus black spot.  Another advantage is that our climate can result in fruit maturing at different times to other countries - New Zealand is the only country in which navel oranges are at optimum maturity in September to November.

Exports

Japan, the USA Pacific Islands are New Zealand’s largest export markets. See the export page here for up to date stats.