The European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, at Leafyridge Olives in Gladstone. PHOTO/GIANINA SCHWANECKE

GIANINA SCHWANECKE
gianina.schwanecke@age.co.nz

In supermarkets across Europe you’ll find New Zealand grown beef and lamb, kiwi wines, dairy products and New Zealand-produced olive oil.

Nestled among rows of freshly-pruned olive trees outside Gladstone on Friday, members of a European Union trade delegation made their way through one of Wairarapa’s largest olive groves as part of a national tour of New Zealand agricultural and horticultural producers.

The European Agriculture Commissioner, Phil Hogan, had arrived for his first visit to the country two days before, stopping by Leafyridge Olives as part of the tour.

He said the New Zealand countryside reminded him of his native home in Ireland.

“It’s very like Ireland. It feels like home.”

While olives might not be New Zealand’s largest export to the EU – we export 50 per cent of our sheep meat to the EU – New Zealand producers are increasingly popular overseas.

About one-third of New Zealand’s olive oil is produced in Wairarapa and the region is also home to the largest number of growers – about 30 boutique producers.

Hogan said the meeting with Wairarapa olive producers was to learn more about New Zealand’s agricultural and horticultural products, with a particular focus on sustainable practices.

“We are committed to sustainability as the beating heart of future farming.”

On Thursday Hogan met Minister for Primary Industries Damien O’Connor in Wellington to discuss the proposed free trade agreement between New Zealand and the European Union.

“We have a big quota that’s only 50 per cent filled up by New Zealand.”

The next stop was at a group of apple and pear orchards in Hawke’s Bay.

Olive New Zealand executive officer Gayle Sheridan, who helped organise the meeting, said the boutique nature of olive growing made a big difference.

“It’s the attention to detail.”

At last year’s New Zealand Extra Virgin Olive awards, several Wairarapa oil growers took top places in five of the categories including best in show, best boutique, best flavour, best label and best process.