NZ: Asian demand boosts cherry sales

Most of New Zealand's cherries are destined for Asian markets; demand there has seen the value of cherry exports leap 30 per cent in the last year, making these exports now worth $68 million.

Taiwan is the largest consumer, taking just over 1 million tonnes of the 5.2m tonnes grown, but China is hard on its heels with imports of 972,000 for the 2015-16 year. These are followed by Thailand, South Korea and Vietnam.

Sales to Asia are helped by the fact the export season coincides with Chinese New Year.

Cherries provided by far the majority of the export value of "summerfruit" - apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches and plums - which was $75.5m over the past year.

The next most valuable export crop was apricots, which were worth $6.5m.

The Central Otago region dominates exports, estimated at making up 95 per cent, yet producing only 50 per cent of New Zealand's cherries.

Alistair King, Crowe Horwath's horticulture specialist, said the horticulture sector was predicting growth until 2018-19. Cherry plantings are set to grow by 30 per cent over the next few years.

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," he said.

Cherry orchardists are moving towards more intensive systems and new plantings, with export volumes expected to rise to 5000 tonnes in the near future.

The domestic market for summerfruit paints a different story. Nectarines eclipse cherries in popularity with sales worth $16.3m, compared to cherries $15m, followed by peaches ($13.4m), plums ($10m), and apricots ($8.6m). 


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