Now it is planting a new 12 ha block on the slopes above Lowburn on Lake Dunstan. General manager Tim Jones, who is also the Summerfruit NZ board chairman, says the industry is expanding hugely, particularly in Central Otago.
The district already has 850ha of cherries and Jones expects that to double in the next three years with new investment coming in and orchards being planted. However, Jones acknowledges that the industry has questions it must ask itself. “Where is the expertise? Where are the people? Where are the houses in Cromwell?” he told Rural News.
“As much as I think it’s great to see the industry expand, I just hope it’s happening sensibly, and people have done their due diligence to be market-led.”
NZ’s two biggest markets for cherries are China and Taiwan, with Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Korea also important. “But whether we can rely on them to take double the amount of fruit in five years, I’m not sure,” says Jones.
The biggest competitor is Chile, which is planting about 2000ha a year and comes into the market at the same time as NZ and at a much lower cost of production.