The future of New Zealand fruit exports to the U.S. promises slow growth and some concerns about competition from other markets.

The future of the New Zealand import apple industry promises to be an interesting one for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Giumarra of Wenatchee, said general manager Tom Richardson.

“Some of the people we’re working with are right in the forefront of new, highly sustain-able, disease-resistant varieties,” he said. “We look to bring in two or three exciting new varieties next year.”

Overall volumes, however, won’t likely change much, Richardson said. New land is being converted into apple orchards. Instead, new varieties are replacing older varieties.

In fact, he said, volumes could dip overall because new trees will produce less fruit, he said.

On the kiwifruit side, the trend is definitely toward golds and away from greens, Richardson said, though the trend is much further advanced in Asia than in North America.

But North America could catch up, given the right promotional and marketing push.

“It’s a great piece of fruit, and there are a lot of efforts going forward to get it into more hands,” he said.

One thing holding back growth in the North American import market for New Zealand kiwifruit is the value of the New Zealand currency, said Steve Woodyear-Smith, kiwifruit category director for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group.

To counteract that, growers raised the price on kiwifruit sold in North America this season in order to maximize returns to its growers, Woodyear-Smith said.

So far, it seems to be working. Despite the price increase — and a greater gap between the price of New Zealand and Chilean fruit — year-to-date shipments are up in 2010, he said.

Looking ahead, whatever the fluctuations in the economy and exchange rates, North America will remain a centerpiece in the New Zealand export deal, Woodyear-Smith said.

“Certainly the desire is to continue to support and grow this market,” he said. “North America remains an integral part of their plan for global distribution.”

The amount of New Zealand apples shipped to the U.S. had declined in recent years because of a poor exchange rate, competition from Chile and other factors, said David Nelley, pipfruit category manager for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group.

“It was definitely a poor year last year,” Nelley said. “This year is looking steady, with no major issues.”

On two major varieties, fujis and galas, New Zealand growers often turn their gazes east instead of west, Nelley said.

“A lot depends on what happens in Taiwan,” he said. “Asia has been doing well on galas and fujis.”

In particular, Asia presents stiff competition to American buyers of New Zealand apples on size 70, 80 and 90 galas and fujis, Nelley said.

The New Zealand kiwifruit industry does not have a specific goal for growing sales in North America, said Karen Brux, North American marketing representative for Zespri Inter-national, Tauranga, New Zealand, the exclusive marketer of New Zealand kiwifruit exported to North America.

The industry has one standard, and one standard only, by which it measures its success, Brux said.

“We need to maximize the return to our growers,” she said. “Everything we do relates to that.”

That said, New Zealand does expect to slowly increase its market share of the kiwifruit category in North America, Brux said.