Tim Reid - Reid Fruits

"You have to be able to shift your focus quickly between markets"

Mainland Australia has had a cold, wet spring and in Tasmania, although not quite as bad as the mainland, it has been colder and wetter than normal. This of course has taken its toll on the mainland crop and the cherry volumes in Australia are expected to be down quite a bit this season.

"We are just past the flowering stage but the weather has been wet and windy although there have been some patches of good weather," explains Tim Reid, owner of Reid Fruits, one of the biggest cherry growers in Tasmania.

"Some patches in the orchards might be a bit light come picking time, but in the main we expect we will have a good crop. This may not the case in some parts of mainland Australia where it has been much wetter and colder. I'm not sure about other growers in Tasmania, but I think they will be similar to us."

Due to the wet weather some orchards have been prone to the trees suffering from "wet feet", this is when the roots of the trees are in very wet ground causing trees to be sick.

If they are not too wet they can recover, but if they are really wet they need to be pulled out.

Last year Reid Fruits invested in a AU$4.5m expansion in the Southern Midlands of Tasmania. "Our existing orchard is only about 30m above sea level, the new orchards are 450m above so it will be a later harvest. We are planting late varieties there which we already have in the existing orchards, this will enable us to extend the season until the 2nd or 3rd week of February, normally our picking would end late January/early February."

The new orchard has a planting of 36 hectares of which 4 are under a retractable roof greenhouse, to ensure production every year regardless of the weather.

The existing orchard in the Derwent Valley is 100 hectares, 80 of which are full bearing and another 20 which will come in over the next couple of years.

Minimising exposure in volatile wholesale markets
85% of Reid's cherry production is exported to 20 countries around the world. China, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong also the Middle East and Thailand among them. All cherries are exported as a premium product.

"We just can't compete in terms of cost due to the high cost of production in Australia compared to other countries, even New Zealand has a lower wage structure than us. We have to strive to sell in the high end of the market. To do that you have to try to produce large, firm cherries and we present them in premium packaging. We are very careful not to over supply any part of the market, but you also have to be very nimble in terms of being able to shift your focus quickly between markets. We airfreight everything into Asia, which enables us to quickly shift to another area or country if one market crashes, which is an important part of our strategy. However in recent years we have been minimising our exposure in the volatile wholesale markets and focusing on other distribution channels."

This year Reid Fruits will be exporting from mid December.

Chinese New Year is early next year with the celebration starting on the 28th January. Tim hopes to have most of the cherries in the market before then. "Chile harvests earlier than us, then they seafrieght them to Asia which takes a month, so they arrive at around the same time as us. The Chileans are now starting to do a bit more airfreight, but mostly their fruit has been on the water for a month before it arrives and ours was picked the day before or two days before, we are in different segment of the market," said Tim.

Reid Fruits have a range of customers, they sell directly to some retailers and have a good network of importers who distribute on their behalf there are also a lot of people selling on line now which Tim said is a real growth market.

Lucy Gregg
Reid fruits
Tel: +61 408 977725
Email: Lucy@reidfruits.com.au

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