Expansion key to grower’s success

Expansion key to grower’s success

Mark De Costa’s relationship with Eastland Port goes back a long way -16 years in fact when his business De Costa Enterprises used to cart bark out of Eastland Port.

He has enjoyed watching the port grow while his own business has expanded and evolved over the last two decades.

It all began when Mark bought his parents’ land back in 2000, now Mark and his team crops 500 hectares of maize and sweetcorn throughout Tairawhiti, has a substantial agricultural services business with tractors and trucks, and owns about 28 hectares of horticultural land.

At the moment Mark exports squash through charter vessels from Eastland Port and is very supportive of the Twin Berth project which could see him exporting a variety of his produce via a coastal container service.

He has recently bought another 6.4 hectares where they plan to plant rocket apples. These are a small apple perfect for snacks and destined mainly for the China market.

“Marty Bayley [Eastland Port Infrastructure Manager] gave our Tairāwhiti Apple Growers focus group a presentation on the Twin Berth project and we are all excited about the possibilities. This is big picture stuff – getting twice as many ships into the port can only be a good thing.”

Once it’s finished two 185-200 metre long ships will be able to berth at once in Tūranganui-a-Kiwa opening up the possibilities of shipping containers to and from the region. “We’re really keen to get containers shipping out of here. At the moment our apples are going to Napier Port by truck.”

“It will bring substantial cost savings to the growers, is better for the fruit, and take trucks off the road.”

“It’s going to be great for the region – imagine if all our growers were to take advantage of containerisation. It has huge potential. We’ll be able to export everything from here – avos, kiwifruit – you name it.”

Finding suitable labour to support the growing business is an ongoing challenge for De Costa which is why Mark and his wife Julie have recently invested in accommodation on site.

They have set up a house on land opposite their original block with additional cabins and a shower and kitchen block.

Their philosophy is if they build it, people will come. De Costa Enterprises has a full-time staff of 18. Mark oversees the running of the company and has an operations manager, an orchard supervisor and a ground-work manager to share the load.

Having their eggs in different baskets means they can move staff around if one area of the business is particularly quiet.

“The good thing about our operation is that if one area slows down we can move people into other areas so we’ve got guaranteed work for them.

“We also hope to attract more seasonal workers like backpackers now that the borders are open again,” he says.