Small Māori businesses are now exporting to 53 countries reeling in exports worth $44 million – up 15% from 2014 – according to latest Statistics New Zealand figures.
The major exports include kaimoana, dairy products, meat with mānuka honey on the rise.
Rhonda Paku (Ngāi Tūhoe), Kaihautū Māori at Statistics New Zealand, says while China takes most of New Zealand’s exports - $205 million worth, surprisingly, Māori SMEs exported almost $6 million worth of goods in 2015 to central Africa, more than the total sent to Australia ($5.1 million).
“Kua kite mātou i roto i te ripoata kua toro atu ngā pākihi Māori ki ngā whenua rima tekau mā toru. Ko ngā tino mākete i tēnei wā kei roto i a Piritana Nui, Haina me Kamaruna, nō reira he āhuatanga hōu tēnei kei te para e ngā pākihi Māori ngā huarahi nei,” hei tāna.
(“We've seen in the report that small Māori enterprises are now doing business with 53 countries around the world. The major markets are the United Kingdom, China and Cameroon. This is a new thing for Māori business and those enterprises are leading the way,” she said.)
Ms Paku said there were three types of products that were in demand.
“Ko ngā mākete nui ko ngā rawa kei te hokona atu ko te miere, ko te waina, me te kaimoana. Ko ērā kai e toru nei e ngākau nui ana e ngā whenua.”
(“The main export products are honey, wine and seafood. It's those three food products that other countries enjoy.”)
Six years ago the Poutama Trust made a decision to concentrate on the food sector. The Trust’s Chief Ideas Officer Richard Jones (Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Pikiao) told Te Karere the expansion of the Māori food producing business into international food markets validated his decision.
“We wanted to cluster businesses, bringing them together into sort of more collective type clusters, for example we've got the Poutama Honey Group, we've got the Poutama Cuisine Cluster. By doing that we're able to bring a group of businesses of varying sizes and varying capabilities and capacities under an umbrella,” Mr Jones said.
Rhonda Paku believes part of the Māori entrepreneurial success comes down to the way Māori do business with similar cultures.
“Ko te tikanga kei te haere i mua i ngā pākihi Māori, i roto hoki i ngā kōrero, kei te kite rātou i te manawanui o ngā iwi pea mō te whenua me te whakatipu kai. Nō reira pea kei reira te ngako o te hiahia o te kōrero o ngā whenua kē.”
(“The cultural exchange that Māori businesses do before they actually do business is what other countries perhaps appreciate, and the way we grow our food is perhaps why other countries like buying our products.”)
Having representatives living and working in markets such as China helped to keep the communication open between the food producers and the importers was important, Mr Jones said.
“Having someone actually in the market, we could get them to be on the ball, on the button all the time as soon as something came through, or we would be up there and they would come in behind and follow up with everything. So they would keep the conversation going, keep the links going and, therefore, people up there would have more direct connection with our food producers, and our food producers would have more direct connection with the market.”
Kaimoana was the top export commodity 59% of the total value of Māori exports in 2015.
The United Kingdom was the biggest single market in 2015 for Māori SMEs, worth $13.4 million.