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Growth continuing for horticulture as cherry sector booms

Media Release

30/08/2016

Growth continuing for horticulture as the cherry sector booms

New Zealand’s traditional horticulture industry is set to maintain its success as the buoyant sector continues to grow exports. Alistair King, Crowe Horwath’s horticulture specialist says, ‘The numbers are stacking up to support this and with exports and production increasing significantly every year, the horticulture sector is predicting growth until 2018/19.’

‘According to Summerfruit NZ’s latest reports the 2016 export value was $68 million for cherries, up by 30% on 2015’s $52 million. There were 3,408 tonnes exported in 2016, that’s up by 25% on 2015. The Central Otago region is dominating exports, estimated at being responsible for 95% of 2016’s exports, yet only producing 50% of New Zealand’s cherries,’ King reports.

King credits the booming cherry and apple sector to new varieties, new systems and increased market access. ‘Air freight is a major factor in the cherry’s success story. It allows New Zealand’s product to be in-market a lot sooner than our main competitor, Chile, which predominantly uses sea freight.’

A shift towards intensive systems is a necessary part of growth for the industry according to King and Summerfruit NZ, with more intensive systems and new plantings they are expecting export volumes to rise to 5,000 tonnes in the near future.

King notes, ‘There is a tight turnaround for cherries. They need to be leaving for market within 24 hours of being harvested. Cherries are categorised by their short-term, high peak workload compared with other fruit types. An estimated 3,800 workers are required in Central Otago alone for the peak employment period of January.’

‘The short season does provide some barriers to growth in the market with a lack of suitable accommodation and trained staff at a machinery and supervisor level,’ King continues. ‘The future does look promising for traditional horticulture, but there does need to be resources to support them. The high demand for workers can mean some orchards struggle if they do not have access to big pools of workers.  The industry is working on initiatives to help address these issues.’

With cherry plantings set to increase by around 30% over the next few years, and a large percentage in Central Otago, this does not look to be deterring growth in the industry, but there are major factors to bear in mind.

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