$50M export target for cherries
Central Otago cherry growers hope for no rain before Chinese New Year, as they plan to export about $50 million worth of cherries.
Summerfruit New Zealand chairman Tim Jones said the demand for exported cherries grew about $7 million from last year’s $43m.
From last year’s exported 3400 tonnes, almost 1000 tonnes went to China, in time for their New Year on February 2.
‘‘The China market is looking particularly strong so it will probably take over a thousand tonnes,’’ Jones said.
Over 80 Central Otago cherry growers will have to have the fruit picked and packed by January 23 for them to make it before the Lunar New Year on January 28.
Helicopters were drying out cherry trees last week after 13 millimetres of ‘‘fast moving’’ rainfall.
Central Cherries general manager Michael Stuart said some areas have been more affected by rain than others.
‘‘The southern end of the valley is probably getting more rain. Where we are at the present point of time, I think we’ve put enough things in place to try and help that situation, but others are in difficulty,’’ he said.
Stuart could not reveal the amount of cherries he would export to China, but said he had seen the increase this year.
Cromwell’s Cheeki Cherries owner Martin Milne was disappointed with the weather, as he hoped to export 30 tonnes of fruit to China this year.
‘‘We had helicopters helping us this morning at 5.30am drying out the cherries for about one hour.
‘‘At the end of the day it is what it is,’’ he said.
Summerfruit New Zealand’s Jones said after the rain, cherries absorb the water and split, making them unsuitable for the market.
‘‘Most growers would still be fairly happy they still have a good volume of fruit to be able to pick over the next few weeks to supply not just China but all markets,’’ he said.
It was expensive to run 15 helicopters in Central Otago but the result justified the expenses, he said.
Overall, the season has been ‘‘pretty good’’ despite a cold summer.’’
‘‘Fruit quantity and quality has been really good and we expect it to continue for another three weeks or so.’’
Summerfruit New Zealand chairman Tim Jones.