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Mandarin Growers Eye Export Potential

From the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology For immediate release

MANDARIN GROWERS EYE EXPORT POTENTIAL

Critical research work is nearing completion in Kerikeri that could trigger exports to Japan of a relatively new and easy-to-peel mandarin. The Richards Special Growers Group in Kerikeri is hoping that up to 500 tonnes of the fruit will be exported initially. The group’s secretary, Duncan Gillanders, says the mandarins are almost pip-free, thin-skinned and easy to peel, making them attractive to both international and domestic consumers.

“In the mid-1990s, a group of Kerikeri growers had about 15,000 trees of the Richards Special mandarin planted, but they found the fruit were not up to expectations,” Mr Gillanders says. “They were not cropping consistently and the crops were small. The growers needed to find out why they were not performing and how to overcome that so they could develop an export market.”

They formed a growers research group with the help of locally based grower and marketing group Kerifresh, and HortResearch. The group received funding support from Technology New Zealand – part of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, which invests in research into new products, processes or services.

This led to HortResearch managing the research work that is due for completion in October.

The growers acquired investment capital by levying a set amount per tree and ended up raising 35 per cent of the research costs, Mr Gillander says.

Test blocks of the trees, which grow to about 2.5 metres, were established on a large Kerikeri orchard.

“We have experimented with various sprays and substances to encourage the trees to hold the fruit,” Mr Gillander says. “We have found that some sprays are getting good results.”

Other trials suggest that pruning helps with crop consistency. Uniform cropping size has also been investigated, but there appears to be no easy or quick fixes.

“The research will probably be sufficient to provide the technical support needed to get the crop to export. We currently have about 200 tonnes of fruit but need 400-500 tonnes to initially cater for the export and domestic markets,” he says.

One key advantage of the Richards Special over rival varieties such as Satsuma and Clementine is that it is picked in late August and early September, much earlier than the other mandarins.

-ends -

Contact: · Duncan Gillanders, Richards Special Growers Group, Kerikeri. Ph/fax: (09) 407-7346. · Nigel Metge, Technology New Zealand at the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (Auckland Office), (09) 912-6730, or 021 454-095. Website: www.technz.co.nz

Prepared on behalf of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology by ID Communications. Contact: Ian Carson (04) 477-2525, ian@idcomm.co.nz


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