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Ginkgo Slip A Bonus For Hawke’s Bay

World marketing opportunities, work for disabled people in Hawke’s Bay and joint ventures with Maori land-owners could result from a Chinese visitor’s accident in Napier and a small grant from Technology New Zealand.

Wang Limin slipped on a ginkgo nut when he was visiting Napier in 1998 as part of a Chinese delegation exploring business opportunities. He was surprised to find the nut because he was not aware that ginkgo trees grew in New Zealand.

Ginkgo is a tree of Asian origin. Extracts from its leaf are used widely as a health product to improve blood flow and memory.

The high quality of the Hawke’s Bay-grown ginkgo has meant that Disability Training Services (DTS) – a local work training trust that helps disabled people to enjoy the best possible quality of life – has signed a joint venture deal with the government of the Chinese city of Pizhou.

“We will grow the trees, pick the leaves and ship them off to China for processing – such as putting them into tablets and capsules,” says Napier City Council economic development manager and DTS board member Ron Massey. “The Chinese will send the product back to us where DTS work enclaves will pack them, and market and sell them world-wide.”

In October last year, 1100 two-year-old Nelson-grown trees were planted in a trial. The leaves were harvested in February and shipped to Pizhou, the centre of China’s ginkgo industry.

“The mayor of Pizhou told us that our samples exceeded international specifications for quality,” Mr Massey says. “That’s because our growing season is longer and slower than theirs and we don’t have the temperature extremes.”

The project was kick-started with funding from Technology New Zealand – part of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology – which could lead to a multimillion-dollar boost for the Hawke’s Bay region. “We have the right seedlings to plant commercially,” Mr Massey says.

“Now we’re looking for land and labour. We are looking at partnerships with Maori land-owners to supply the ground to grow the trees on, because we don’t own land. “This could be an example of ‘closing the gaps’. Money won’t close the gaps – projects will.”

Ginkgo is one of several natural products catering to a huge and growing world market. In New Zealand it is classed as a dietary supplement. Mr Massey says that in Germany it is prescribed as a medication and in the United States it is being tested as a pharmaceutical product.

Ginkgo is sold in capsules and tablets, and there is also a wide range of other products, such as ginkgo tea and even beer.


-ends-

Contact: · Ron Massey, Napier City Council. Ph: (06) 834-4193. Fax: (06) 835-7574. Email: ron@napier.govt.nz · Tony Hadfield, Technology New Zealand at the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, (04) 917-7800 or 025 454-095. Website: www.technz.co.nz

Prepared for the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology by ID Media Ltd. Contact: Ian Carson, (04) 477-2525, ian@media.co.nz


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