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Robert Quinn - Export Manager
NZ: Looking to extend the season with new cherry varietiesOne of New Zealand's leading cherry exporters expects that an increase in demand and extra supply coming online will lead to major growth in the sector in coming years.
RD8 exports around 700 tonnes of cherries, which is around 20 per cent of New Zealand cherry exports, with China and Taiwan competing for the biggest volumes of the New Zealand crop.
"Taiwan is the biggest, China second," Export Manager Robert Quinn said. "We thought China would overtake this year, but Taiwan kept going and was a bit stronger, and Thailand was third. Chilean product is in the market at the same time, but there is quite a quality variation. So probably Tasmania is our biggest competition."
Robert Quinn and Craig Hall
Cherry volumes are increasing across New Zealand, driven by new tree plantings. RD8 expects demand to continue to be strong, with the company using air freight to get its produce to market quicker to ensure a higher quality item. But the Export Manager says it is not always the easiest option.
"98 per cent is air freight for cherries out of New Zealand," Mr Quinn said. "There are some problems with capacity for air freight out of New Zealand. The production area is at the bottom of the South Island, so the nearest international airport is Christchurch - and there are limited flights out of there. A bit has to come up to Auckland as well. So it can be quite tricky to get the fruit out of the country."
Mr Quinn says his company is always looking to expand into new markets, but is at the mercy of the government and its trade negotiations. In the past it has exported small volumes to France and Russia, while demand for New Zealand cherries in the Korean market has been stifled by Chile's recent access.
RD8 says the pre-Christmas varieties usually stay in New Zealand as the domestic market is strong at that time. Quinn says New Zealand growers are looking at introducing new varieties, particularly to extend the season later into the year. But he says much of their success has come from bringing in varieties from North America.
"Most come from Canada, from the Summerland breeding program," Mr Quinn said. "They seem to suit our environment and the characteristics of the Asian palate and what they are looking for - crunch, size and sweetness."
The company also exports blueberries, which it says is one of the fastest growing categories in New Zealand, and demand is outstripping supply. In Asia, New Zealand faces some tough competition from Chile and Argentina. It often struggles due to the prices, and currently has no access to China. But Australia is where 95 per cent of the fruit is exported.
"We fit with Australia quite nicely as their volume starts to tail off in January and that's where our volume picks up," RD8 Managing Director Craig Hall said. "So we compliment them and Australia is our biggest market for our exports for sure."
Mr Hall says there are new varieties and plant material coming in, which focuses more on the early season and Asia, which should be sweeter and suit their palate.
The majority of New Zealand's crops are outdoors and unprotected, but the Managing Director says he has been encouraging his growers to use netting and covering, which could help extend crop life slightly.
"We've got some tunnels ourselves in the Hawkes Bay and we are encouraging others to invest," Mr Hall said. "The majority have never been able to see the benefit in pay back in it. But I think it pays off. Covering is one thing but fertilisation, how you feed it undercover, means you can manipulate a longer season, and you are guaranteed your crop."
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