The New Zealand apricot industry is hoping that the new varieties soon to enter production will revive the trade in this sector. A new grower co-op, at this stage just a sub-committee of the Summerfruit NZ Board, is being set up to manage the release, marketing and licensing of the new varieties.
Developed with Plant and Food Research, they are now simply called NZsummer2, NZsummer3 and NZsummer4. Brand names for the fruit and a trading name for the co-op have yet to be decided.
The interim board chairman, Alexandra orchardist Nigel Hinton, says the apricot industry has been in decline for several years, with many trees cut down and little replanting done: “Some of the varieties coming out of the apricot breeding programme show excellent characteristics and I am confident the commercialisation of some of these varieties will revitalise the apricot industry.”
Summerfruit NZ chair Tim Jones says the breeding is a big investment but it is finally producing “really exciting” new varieties after 20 years’ work. He says the apricot trade has suffered for years from “moderate” crops. The main export market is Australia, where NZ apricots are for sale at the same time as domestic fruit. Jones said the new varieties include some later-ripening fruit. “Instead of being picked in January they’ll be picked late January into February and that then has a window all of its own.”