Growing Futures

Low residue apples for export

Low residue apples for export

Apple Futures helps growers to deliver apples for export with no pests or diseases and meet the strict residue requirements of European regulations and supermarket customer assurance programmes

New Zealand exports around $360 million of apples each year (2012), the majority to European and Asian markets. Each country has strict biosecurity requirements, and shipments of apples must be free of pests and diseases to enter the market. The EU has also introduced new ‘Sustainable Use of Pesticides’ regulations, compelling produce exporters to reduce the level of pesticides used in the growing of crops. In addition to these changing regulatory requirements, supermarket chains, particularly in Europe, are increasingly requiring producers to demonstrate environmental sustainability, including a substantial reduction of chemical residues on fresh produce, to meet their own brand promise to their customers.

Maintaining the balance

New Zealand’s apple sector is spread across a range of environments and each has their own pest and disease pressures. Apple Futures allows growers to balance the demands of its customers for minimal pesticide residues with the challenge of effective control of pests and diseases. Crop production guidelines now combine computer modelling to optimise disease prediction, monitoring of insect pests and beneficial organisms, pheromone-based mating disruption technologies to reduce insect pest populations, and targeted spraying of selective pesticides when justified. Subsequently, pesticide residues on fruit at harvest have been reduced to significantly below regulatory requirements and below even the most stringent levels required by leading European supermarkets.

The programme was introduced in the 2007-8 growing season in Central Otago and Hawke’s Bay, then in Nelson in 2009. By the 2009, 65% of apples produced were grown under the Apple Futures programme. These apples met the phytosanitary requirements of over 65 countries and were either residue-free or with residues below 10% of EU regulatory tolerances. Subsequently, the programme has been translated to consumer marketing through the development of the pipfruit industry’s “100% Pure Apples from New Zealand” marketing campaign.

Meeting the challenge

Apple Futures was an initiative led by Pipfruit New Zealand at a time when many competing apple producing countries were rejecting the supermarkets’ call for ‘residue-free’ fruit. By taking up the challenge, The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research estimated the Apple Futures programme has preserved up to $113 million of the pipfruit industry’s revenue over the last four years, with a research cost of only $3.2 million. It has also succeeded in eliminating the use of pesticide ingredients classified as Extremely and Highly Hazardous to human health.

The research was funded by Pipfruit New Zealand and New Zealand Trade & Enterprise, with support from three regional economic development agencies – Hawke’s Bay Incroporated, the Nelson Regional Development Agency and Otago Forward. A pilot project, PipSafe, was funded by Pipfruit New Zealand and the Sustainable Farming Fund.

Created: September 2012

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