Record central Otago cherry crop predicted

Central Otago cherry growers are expecting a record crop this summer if ideal weather conditions continue.

Pure Pac Limited operates a state-of-the-art cherry packhouse and marketing company at Cromwell.

It amalgamates the activities of seven cherry growers and grows, packs and distributes 12 premium varieties for domestic and export sales between December and February each year.

Pure Pac corporate services manager Kirsty Allison said the company expected to more than double output to approximately 600 tonnes as about 60 hectares of trees reached mature production, and one orchard produced a crop for the first time.

"Central Otago growing conditions have been ideal so far. As long as this continues, we expect all 12 premium varieties to produce good-sized fruit (up to 34mm) which will be sweet and crunchy - just as consumers expect from New Zealand cherries," she said.

Harvesting is expected to start around December 18, weather permitting.

This season, more than 200 seasonal workers will be employed to pick and pack Pure Pac cherries at its Central Otago orchards and high-tech packhouse.
This season, more than 200 seasonal workers will be employed to pick and pack Pure Pac cherries at its Central Otago orchards and high-tech packhouse. Photo credit: Supplied

This season will be the third for Pure Pac, which was established by seven experienced cherry producers who wanted to have control over the packing and exporting of their cherries, as well as growing them.

All orchards are expected to reach full mature production by 2023.

Last season, Pure Pac sent some 270 tonnes to market between December 2018 and February 2019, in line with a 40 percent industry drop due to variable pre-season conditions.

There's been ideal growing conditions in Central Otago.
There's been ideal growing conditions in Central Otago. Photo credit: Supplied

Allison said 60 percent of fruit would be exported to existing and emerging Asian markets, with the remainder distributed to supermarkets nationally and via Pure Pac's online store.

This season Pure Pac would export premium brands, Pure Gold and Gold Reserve, by air freight to Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, Thailand, Korea, India, Vietnam and Cambodia.

"We've diversified our markets within Asia and are focusing our efforts there, particularly leading up to Chinese New Year on January 25 when a high demand for premium cherries coincides with our peak production," she said.

"Taiwan is our biggest market and demand is quality driven, not price driven, so we can continue to command a premium price per kilo."

The first cherries are expected to appear on New Zealand shelves on December 20.

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