Cheery cherry season for growers and eaters

Cheery cherry season for growers and eaters

The cherry season has come to an end and smashed record numbers after a sunny and fruitful summer.

Cherries make up roughly 65 percent of New Zealand summer fruit exports, which includes apricots, peaches, nectarines and newcomer this year -- plums.

A huge 2700 tonnes of cherries were exported in the 2014/2015 season, amassing $52.2 million for the economy.

But those numbers have been pipped at the post as a record 3390 tonnes of cherries have been exported this season.

It's not just overseas that has a taste for cherries, with the domestic market chomping on a record 1775 tonnes too. Chinese New Year being in peak cherry season also helped as 70,000 tourists flocked to New Zealand to celebrate.

It's been a "superb" season Summerfruit chief executive Marie Dawkins says.

"There could be another 200-300 tonnes of export cherries and maybe another 150 tonnes on the New Zealand market yet to be reported," she says.

"We've had pretty good weather and lots of plantings now in full production. You could say we are seeing the fruits of all those plantings."

More than 90 percent of our exported cherries are grown in Central Otago and Asia takes majority of this.

Ms Dawkins says the quality and the size of Kiwi cherries is what keeps them wanting more.

Taiwan takes more than 30 percent but catching up is China, taking nearly 30 percent of exports. Ms Dawkins says this is amazing as just seven years ago New Zealand wasn't trading cherries in China. 

Korea is another market that has showed increasing interest, taking 340 tonnes of cherries this season thanks to the Free Trade Agreement reducing tariffs from 25 percent to zero.

Thirty to 40 percent of cherries shipped overseas are supplied by 45 South in Cromwell, general manager Tim Jones says.

A season of good crop levels, fantastic weather and a strong market meant record numbers were harvested for the business this season.

The continued investment in the industry is a positive sign, Mr Jones says.

"There's a lot of confidence in Central Otago cherries simply because of a couple of good years in a row."