OPINION: Last week, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) released its quarterly outlook figures for New Zealand's primary sector.
Horticultural growth for the coming year, including wine, was estimated to be 13.1 percent. This is a $0.7 billion increase.
MPI's Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries report noted that this was coming off strong kiwifruit and apple growth in not only volume, but also value.
The report notes the increase is driven by most of our horticultural exports including an 11 percent gain in value for vegetable and other fruit exports.
This is a remarkable achievement, especially when the next highest predicted increase in value is a modest 2.1 percent for dairy.
MPI noted: "The trajectory of primary sector production and exports would depend on the industry's response to an evolving operating environment, include trade disruption, shifting consumer preferences, increasing risk of pest incursion and the focus on sustainability."
These are all issues that horticulture is managing and, to sustain the predicted increase, favourable growing conditions will need to continue for the rest of the season.
One factor that may assist domestic sales is the progress being made with the country of origin labelling legislation that is in the process of being made law.
The countries that the majority of our exports go to already require country of origin labelling. In fact, sales value is driven off the fact that the fruit and vegetables are grown in New Zealand.
But, surprisingly, New Zealand has no legal requirement to identify where fresh fruit and vegetables are grown either on the label or, if it is single pieces of fruit or vegetables, on the bin.
Last week in Parliament this legislation had its second reading, making it a step closer to being made law. Hopefully this law will be passed before the end of the year and, shortly after that, it will become mandatory to identify where fresh fruit and vegetables are grown.
Our research showed that more than 70 percent of New Zealanders want mandatory country of origin labelling for fruit and vegetables, so it is good democratic process to see the Government listening to consumers.
Consumers want to be able to make choices based on their own beliefs and values. They may want to support local businesses, buy what is in season and grown locally, help keep and create jobs in their own area or, for that matter, buy products from other countries known for being the best at growing particular produce.
So like the significant predicted increase in export value, we may see a corresponding increase in domestic value in the coming year with consumers being able to recognise and buy our New Zealand produce.
Mike Chapman is Chief Executive for industry group Horticulture New Zealand.