Cherry on top for Cen­tral Otago

The boom in hor­ti­cul­ture high­lights the con­fi­dence of grow­ers in the con­tin­u­ing po­ten­tial of fruit­grow­ing in Cen­tral Otago.

The Orchardist - - News - Story by Dianne King

Thou­sands of cherry, apri­cot and ap­ple trees are be­ing planted in Cen­tral Otago this spring al­though other ru­moured, and un­con­firmed, de­vel­op­ments are likely ham­pered by the short­age of cherry trees as de­mand is out­strip­ping sup­ply.

About 25 years ago in Fel­ton road, Ban­nock­burn, near Cromwell, farms and or­chards were re­placed with vine­yards and the land­scape had been trans­formed dra­mat­i­cally by about 20 vine­yards.

In 2017 fruit is ap­pear­ing again this spring with a block of 20ha shortly to be planted in 5ha of an early pro­duc­ing cherry at a site which has also been clas­si­fied as “early”.

In an­other ven­ture fur­ther down Fel­ton road a new pack­house is be­ing con­structed.

Low­burn fruit­grower Hugh Dendy is not a man to let thyme and time get away on him and he is among Cen­tral Otago grow­ers de­vel­op­ing land for cher­ries and had pur­chased 120ha of thyme cov­ered land above Dairy Creek

The Dairy Creek Ir­ri­ga­tion Company and Alexan­drabased Pioneer En­ergy have joined forces to invest about $10 mil­lion in an ir­ri­ga­tion scheme which will take wa­ter from Dairy Creek, near the Clyde Hy­dro-electric dam, up to about 1800ha of land which will be de­vel­oped by those with in­ter­ests in hor­ti­cul­ture and agri­cul­ture

How­ever, with a wait of up to two years for cherry trees Hugh and his man­ager Tim Paulin are grow­ing their own trees.

How­ever, nurs­eries will be ap­proached when trees with roy­al­ties need to be pur­chased.

Sum­mer­fruit NZ chair­man Tim Jones said about 40ha to 50ha of ground is now be­ing planted out in cher­ries by those grow­ers who around two years ago placed tree or­ders with nurs­eries.

Cherry blocks com­ing in to pro­duc­tion this year could bump up the es­ti­mated 2018 crop to 4,000 tonnes of ex­port fruit. New va­ri­eties of apri­cots are ex­cit­ing and could re-in­vig­o­rate the apri­cot in­dus­try, he says.

Those ex­ist­ing cherry grow­ers plant­ing more trees al­ready had the in­fra­struc­ture re­quired for pack­ing or have con­tracted out the pack­ing. Ac­com­mo­da­tion re­quire­ments would also be sorted for the ex­tra ca­sual staff as re­quired.

“It’s the new play­ers com­ing in to the in­dus­try that should be ask­ing the ques­tion whether there are ex­ist­ing ser­vices to grow or man­age or­chards if they [new grow­ers] do not have these in place.”

The use of new grow­ing sys­tems gave grow­ers the abil­ity to in­stall rain cov­ers for risk man­age­ment of weather is­sues in Cen­tral Otago. It is eas­ier to con­struct these cov­ers over the new tech­niques than over trees planted in the tra­di­tional man­ner, Tim said.

In­stalling rain cov­ers over the new grow­ing sys­tems would re­quire an in­vest­ment of about 100,000 per hectare.

In this past sea­son 3,340 tonnes of cher­ries were ex­ported which was a “touch down” on the 2015-16 to­tal of 3,408 ex­port tonnes.

Av­er­age fruit prices for the year were higher than any pre­vi­ous sea­son which he at­tributes to good fruit, a strong mar­ket and the tim­ing of the Chi­nese New Year.

When asked his choice of the best pro­duc­ing cherry va­ri­ety for 2016-2017,Tim said it was prob­a­bly Lapin, with Cen­ten­nial the first of a new very promis­ing late va­ri­ety.

Some very promis­ing apri­cots are be­ing re­leased through the joint pro­gramme be­tween Sum­mer­fruit NZ and Plant & Food.

“There are some ex­cit­ing mid-and-late sea­son apri­cots with ex­cel­lent brix of about 16 and above. Very sweet fruit. When you think that Sun­drop and Clutha Gold are 10 or 11 brix this 16 is ex­cel­lent.”

The highly coloured new va­ri­eties are firm sweet and from taste tests with Asian con­sumer pan­els proved to be very ac­cept­able.

Tim be­lieves that these new va­ri­eties would lead to the re­gen­er­a­tion of the apri­cot in­dus­try and could open up new mar­kets, such as China.

In the Teviot Val­ley ap­ples are the fruit of choice al­though new va­ri­eties of apri­cots are be­ing tri­alled there.

Et­trick or­chardist and a for­mer Pipfruit NZ di­rec­tor Stephen Dar­ling says “anec­do­tally” he is aware that for­ward or­ders of trees from nurs­eries are backed up for about two years, which is an ex­am­ple of the con­fi­dence in the pipfruit in­dus­try.


Cen­tral Otago Mayor Tim Cado­gan was con­cerned about the im­pli­ca­tions of a pro­posed Labour Party wa­ter tax for land­based op­er­a­tions in Cen­tral Otago and had writ­ten to Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern, later pub­licly re­leas­ing this letter.

He said from fig­ures sup­plied to him by the Otago Wa­ter Rights User Group showed about 40,000 ha were cur­rently ir­ri­gated in Cen­tral Otago.

This group had es­ti­mated that in an av­er­age sea­son an “av­er­age” ir­ri­gated prop­erty would use 750mm of ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter per hectare. He saw the tax as not only un­fair but “a re­verse tax” on rain­fall as the tax paid would be de­ter­mined not by us­age of wa­ter through ir­ri­ga­tion, but by the lack of rain­fall in the dis­trict. Mr Cado­gan made public the re­sponse from Miss Ardern, say­ing he gained some so­lace from a line in her letter which stated: “the roy­alty will be flex­i­ble enough to re­flect the scarcity of abun­dance of wa­ter in dif­fer­ent re­gions, the dif­fer­ent qual­ity of wa­ter in dif­fer­ent re­gions and its use”.

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