Central Otago fruit loss: The unrealised potential
Stage 1 - Understanding Central Otago fruit loss
The quality of Central Otago fruit is world renowned, but not all of it makes it to local and export markets or is processed into a value-added product.
A report Understanding fruit loss in Central Otago just released by the Central Otago District Council, was commissioned to determine the quantities of fruit that doesn’t get used as a first step to supporting initiatives to reduce fruit loss.
Fruit loss is fruit that is grown for human consumption but does not end up being sold for human consumption and is lost on property or in production (orchard and packhouse). This includes non-harvested fruit (left on tree) as well as harvested fruit that does not get sold or consumed by humans. Understanding fruit loss in Central Otago focusses on the loss that occurs on-property, not the loss at the distribution, retail or consumer end of the supply chain (food waste). Local company Thrive Consulting, that specialises in horticulture consultancy services, conducted the research and authored the report. The report’s data came from surveys and interviews with Central Otago horticulture growers and quantified fruit loss for – apples, apricots, cherries, peaches, nectarines.
Food loss and food waste are gaining global attention. The Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that globally 33% of food produced for humans does not end up being consumed.
“There is very little research on food loss in New Zealand and we couldn’t find anything published for our local horticulture sector, so doing this research to understand our current situation seemed like a very good place to start,” said Central Otago District Council Economic Development Manager Nick Lanham.
“The report shows that a high proportion (85%) of fruit grown in Central Otago does leave the orchards for human consumption, which is great to see. The question is – can the 15% loss be reduced?”
With food and horticulture innovation, and consumer awareness around waste increasing, the time is right to be investigate options to support industry to reduce fruit loss.
Not only does reducing fruit loss mean resources are being used most efficiently but it could also support further development of value-added processing options, better growing techniques or new markets. These would all increase the industry’s resilience to weather events or market changes.
Some of the key findings included:
- Fruit not harvested (non-harvested fruit loss) was estimated at 8.6% (4151 tonnes) of the total crop.
- Fruit harvested that was not sold amounted to 4.2% (2014 tonnes) of the total harvested fruit crop. This fruit was mostly recycled back to the orchard.
- Export and local market fruit accounted for 85% of fruit sold and process grade fruit was 11% of harvested fruit. Process grade fruit was mostly used in juice, concentrates, drying and pulp.
- Most growers agreed that fruit loss will increase in the future driven by substantial new plantings and increasing grade standards.
- More growers are moving towards strip picking which will increase the harvested loss and reduce non-harvested loss.
The report author noted growers were open to new ideas and opportunities. There was strong interest from growers to collaborate and find alternatives for process and fruit loss, but some were unsure how to do this and their focus was on growing high-quality fruit for sale.
The report findings will be presented to industry via an online forum on Tuesday 19 October, and next steps will be discussed.
Link to report:
Understand Fruit Loss in Central Otago report (PDF, 2MB)
Link to media release:
CODC report first step to reducing fruit loss - Central Otago District Council
Stage 2 - Research to support adding-value
About 6000 tonnes or 15% of fruit grown in Central Otago does not end up being consumed.
The opportunity to see more of our fruit used and not go to waste, brought parties together to undertake three workstreams, to increase the knowledge base and understand options.
The three workstreams, which focused on apples, apricots, cherries and nectarines, identified:
1) Current processing capacity and constraints in the district
2) Fruit health benefits and properties, product development trends
3) Demand trends locally and globally
Initial findings were presented to over 50 local growers, processors and interested parties in Alexandra, in November 2022. The reports from each workstream have now been finalised and have been made publicly available (see links below).
“Reducing fruit loss could also provide the opportunity for growers to move up the value chain through their processing activities, to grow and diversify the local economy,” Central Otago District Council Economic Development Manager Nick Lanham said.
From a Summerfruit NZ perspective the project and reports provided some excellent insights into the opportunities to gain value from waste fruit, but also identified challenges, Summerfruit New Zealand Research Manager Sally Anderson said.
"It’s these challenges that the collective will need to work through if future opportunities might be realised. It seems that there are opportunities and Summerfruit NZ would be keen to continue to support these initiatives now that the groundwork has been laid."
“Collaboration will be key to solving these challenges," LILO Desserts co-founder Cleo Gilmour said. Her company specialises in utlising and celebrating local fruit in a new range of ready to eat cheesecakes.
"New Zealand grows some of the world’s most nutritious and delicious fruit in the world, and the Central Otago provenance story is underutilised in our export marketing. While processing capacity is still a challenge, focusing on the taste and nutrients of our fruit will widen opportunities for growers and help grow New Zealand’s reputation as a premium food producer.”
Stage three of the project begins this month and involves promoting the reports and a meeting with potential investors interested in collaborating and exploring the next steps.
Fruit loss is fruit that is grown for human consumption but does not end up being sold for human consumption and is lost on property or in production (orchard and packhouse).
In October 2021, the Central Otago District Council (CODC) commissioned a report to quantify the amount of fruit that does not get used, as the first step in supporting initiatives to reduce fruit loss. A workshop followed with local growers and processors, who developed the three workstreams that would support individuals and collaborative groups to use more of the fruit loss (see Stage 1 above).
The three workstreams were funded by CODC, Summerfruit NZ, Lilo Deserts, the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund and Bio Resource Processing Alliance. Work was undertaken by Otago University, Plant and Food Research, and Appetite for Change Limited.
Links to reports: