Organic apple growers Bostock take advantage of Vietnam's 'booming middle class'

The company's owner John Bostock and international marketing manager Jane Maclean.
The company's owner John Bostock and international marketing manager Jane Maclean. Photo credit: Supplied

The country's largest organic apple grower is expanding further into Vietnam, in a bid to capitalise on a rapidly growing market.

Bostock, which also has offices in Russia and North America, announced it will now have "staff on the ground" in Ho Chi Minh City.

Jane Maclean, Bostock's international marketing manager, says with the company's apple volumes into Vietnam increasing 2000 percent in the past five years the country was a "clear winner" when deciding where further investment should be focused.

"The modern retail sector has completely changed the landscape there," Maclean told Magic Talk's Rural Today on Tuesday.

"Five years ago when we really started exporting apples into that market all of our apples were moving through the wholesale and wet market channels, and Bostock are now at a point where 60 percent of our apples will go into this modern trade sector. These are channels that simply weren't there five years ago - that's how quickly that market is growing and changing."

Maclean credited Vietnam's "booming middle class" with a rise in sales. 

"They've got more money in their back pocket and as a result they're all looking for and can afford to buy organic produce to look after their health and know the food they're eating is safe for themselves and their children."

The company's first shipment of new season organic apples will arrive in Vietnam in April.

'Some trouble on the horizon'

Despite increased exports to Vietnam, Bostock says the country's horticultural worker shortage has growers concerned about this season's harvest.

New Zealand relies heavily on backpackers and foreign seasonal workers to pick and pack fruit, but with the country's borders effectively closed there is a shortfall of thousands across the horticulture industry this year.

Maclean said it was a "huge effort" to pick fruit amid the shortage, with the situation only expected to get worse in the coming months.

"The pressure usually comes on from mid-March to early May once all apples are available and needing to be packed and picked," she said.

"So we can certainly see some trouble on the horizon and what we're seeing now is some of our conventional packhouses have only been at 60 percent capacity to date due to a shortage of staff. Sadly we're already seeing some of our independent growers needing to make choices about what to harvest and what to leave on the trees, simply from not having enough pickers.

"So that's very concerning for us."

She said although the situation was dynamic and changing daily "when we look at our labour resources on the ground today we are incredibly short as both a company and an industry".