Young Horticulturist Dean Astill’s Report on his trip to Asia in 2006

This report outlines the visits made to both production sites and markets in the South East Asia area from June 18th to July 1st 2006.

I choose to use the prize package from the 2005 Horticulturalist of the Year to further my knowledge and understanding of the above mentioned markets and production sites the reason for choosing this area is out lined below:

  • I have spent a lot of time in the EU markets and production areas so took the opportunity to look at less familiar territory.
  • The Asian market is an increasingly important market for NZ export produce and potentially importation of tropical produce to NZ.
  • I had been invited by the Malaysian Agricultural Research & Development Institute (MARDI) to be involved and take a detailed look at the projects they are currently undertaking with regard to keeping crops clean of Fruit Fly to allow the export of produce from Malaysia to countries that they do not currently have access to.
  • My current career path is very much involved in dealing in these markets and I am currently working on opportunities in these countries.

Photos of the Singapore Wholesale Markets

The countries visited are as detailed below:

1. Singapore
2. Malaysia
3. Thailand

Although all of these countries are in close proximity to each other the difference between them all was quiet noticeable.

1. Singapore

The visit to Singapore was very short and consisted of only 2 days, during this time I managed to spend some time at the Wholesale markets in Singapore as well as visit the famous wet markets. I also had 2 very successful meetings with companies based in Singapore involved specifically in NZ produce.

2. Malaysia

Most of the time spent in South East Asia was in Malaysia, the amount of time spent traveling by car just to get anywhere is quite out standing, as the production areas are a long way away from the city. One day we spent 13 hours traveling! But it was well worth it.

Golden Hope

Golden Hope Orchards and Juice  Factory in the background ... an below the new “Dragon Fruit”

Golden Hope is the single largest company involved in the production of Oil Palm in Malaysia, but they have more recently diversified into the production of Guava fruit and the manufacturing of Guava puree and Juices. Guava Juice is a very smooth and refreshing drink unlike anything you can buy in NZ.

Golden Hope are farming/ growing 1000 acres of Pink Guava fruit specifically for processing at their own juice plant and are rapidly expanding. The Golden Hope group are also venturing into some other areas of tropical produce including the very new “Dragon Fruit” as to which the Malaysian industry has very high expectations for export potential.

The management of the fruit production areas could be described as some what behind the times, but not through lack of knowledge just resource. The operation is very much a hands on one and with labor being relatively cheap the need to introduce more machinery is not a high priority but is certainly in the pipeline.


MARDI had invited me to have a look at their project for the control of Fruit Fly from the crops that they are growing but in particular the “Star Fruit” crops. I was fortunate enough to spend a considerable amount of time with Dr. Zainudin Haji Meon looking at the project it self as well as the objectives and the further work that is to be done over the next few years. MARDI do have a link to Hort + Research here in NZ and communication is underway regarding this project as well as others.

Inside the enclosure where the Star Fruit is been grown under a very small micron netting to keep it free of fruit fly. Below, a close up of the Star Fruit itself.

It is seen by the Malaysian government that establishing a link with NZ to be very important.

I also attended an evening in Kuala Lumpur that encompassed a range of people from different countries including USA, Australia, NZ, South Africa and representatives from throughout Asia and the EU. This was a trade and commerce evening that happens annually and is a chance for people to meet and share opportunities as well as to make a lot of new contacts.

I have also met with 3 different people that are also involved in the sales of produce from NZ and in fact one of them actually handled the fruit that I had exported from NZ last year. With developing these kinds of relationships it does make it a lot easier to do business from a distance back in NZ.

3. Thailand

Thailand was very interesting with regard to how produce is sold in this country, there is a real wholesale trading type environment that operates and it is done on a deal by deal basis.

The produce in Thailand consisted of product from China, Taiwan and Malaysia; although a small presence of NZ produce was seen. The major fruit player in Thailand was Apples from the USA and South America.

I managed to meet with 2 buyers while I was there. One of these guys was a supermarket buyer for the supermarket Carrefour and the other was a traditional wholesale trader, both of them had very differing views on the produce industry in Thailand (not surprising) but they both made a common point of how corrupt the market can be and it really is a case of who you know not what you know.


Overall this was a very enlightening experience and I really did get a fantastic chance to explore a very important part of the Asian industry as well as make many new contacts and to re visit some that I already have had contact with.

I thank RNZIH for including the travel package as part of the Young Horticulturalist of the Year prizes and believe it has been a valuable experience.

I have also had some on going contact with several of the people that I met while in Asia and must also thank a friend of mine Robert Schroder for providing many of the opportunities while I was in Malaysia.

Kind regards

Dean Astill
2005 NZ Young Horticulturalist of the Year

Simon Gourley
Young Horticulturist 2019

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