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A reports has found more than 10% of the fruit grown in Central Otago is not being sold or eaten.

The Central Otago District Council commissioned the research to better understand how much fruit grown on orchards in the region is not being utilised, as a first step to supporting ideas to reduce fruit loss.

The report was written by horticulture consulting business, Thrive Consulting, which based its findings off surveys and interviews with local growers.

Fruit loss was fruit grown for human consumption that does not end up being sold for that purpose and is lost on property or in production orchard or packhouse.

That included non-harvested fruit, or fruit left on the tree, as well as harvested fruit that does not get sold or consumed by humans.

The report focused on the loss that occurred on-property, not the loss at the distribution, retail or consumer end of the supply chain or food waste.

Central Otago District Council economic development manager Nick Lanham said there was very little research on food loss in New Zealand.

“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.”

He said the report shows a high proportion of fruit grown in Central Otago does leave the orchards for human consumption, which was good to see, but the question for the industry was whether the loss could be reduced.

With food and horticulture innovation, and consumer awareness around waste increasing, the time was right to 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 would 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.