Demand Brewing for Former Large-Scale Hop Production Operation
A major agricultural operation which has previously produced one of New Zealand’s most exported high value yet little-known crops has been placed on the market for sale.
The 55.8-hectare site in the Motueka district of Riwaka was established as a hop growing plantation in the 1960s, before the operation was bought out by fruit and vegetable producer/marketer ENZAFruit New Zealand International Limited in the early 2000s and converted into an apple orchard.
However, ENZA Fruit New Zealand International Limited is now selling the land and processing plant buildings at 657 Main Road. The entire operation is being marketed for sale by negotiation through Bayleys Motueka. Salesperson Leeon Johnston said that with demand for New Zealand hops now fueled by the phenomenal rise in global craft beers, the most likely future for the land and building infrastructure was reconversion back to a hop garden.
Mr Johnston said any transition of the Riwaka site back to a large-scale hop garden would be a detailed undertaking – with the apple trees having to be removed and replanted with hops, and much of the substantial crop area requiring new trussing and netting.
Hop gardens can deliver their first crop a year after planting, although the harvest is minimal. Hop vines reach maturity and deliver on-going maximum yields after three to four seasons. A standard hop crop is harvested between mid-February and the end of March.
Mr Johnston said the property’s building infrastructure consisted of some 1,309 square metres of high-stud warehousing, administrative office space, and a covered storage bunker.
“The 740 square metre shed complex which previously housed boilers, drying kilns and hop balers is still intact and in relatively good condition. Access to the warehousing areas is through multiple wide sliding door portals designed to allow free-flowing entry and exit for commercial-sized agricultural cropping vehicles,” he said.
“Additionally, the plant also includes substantial office space, a staff lunchroom and recreation area, and bathroom amenities.”
Mr Johnston said the productive landholding had been developed across six titles and had been segregated into some 20-individual rectangular-shaped blocks to allow for efficient plant maintenance throughout the year and mechanical harvesting at the end of the growing season.
“With well-formed and maintained wide dirt roads connecting all quadrants of the property, the strategic subdivision of plots would immediately allow for specific hop varieties to be planted in individual fields – thereby enabling a broad selection of hops to market demands.
“It is quite common now among craft brewers for one beer alone to contain four or five different hop varieties. In fact, the Golden Spiral Indian pale ale produced by Garage Project brewery in Wellington has 21 different hop additions in its recipe.”
The upper South Island’s 17 hop crops are spread across a range of varieties – each with their own unique flavour profile - to supply the international demand from scores of breweries. Among the Motueka and Nelson-grown hops making a name for the crop internationally are; Chinook, Fuggle, Green Bullet, Pacific Gem, Sticklebract, and Willamette.
New Zealand Hops Limited chief executive officer Doug Donelan said the country’s hop industry was in a growth phase – with 95 percent of the crop grown on a contract basis, and 85 percent of the crop destined for export markets. This year, members of the New Zealand Hop Cooperatives – most of whom are based in the Motueka region – produced 721,959 kilograms of hops.
"The big markets for craft beer are the USA, UK and Europe - but we're also seeing growth in Japan and emerging markets such as Vietnam and China," he said.