Ways to fly outcherries one of many topics discussed

New Zealand growers might have to consider hiring dedicated freight aircraft to transport a possible 3000 tonnes of cherries during the peak summer periods in the future, Summerfruit New Zealand vice-chairman Tim Jones says.

''There are enough trees in the ground now [ready to come into production], and if we have a nice kind spring and no rain, we could have 2500 to 3000 tonnes of cherries,'' Mr Jones said.

He said growers were reaching air freight capacity at the current 1500 to 1700 tonnes.

Markets in South East Asia could easily take that sort of volume and more.

It was important to better understand where the peaks were and be smarter with air freight, he said.

At present, export fruit shares freight space with other primary produce such as lobsters, and passengers.

''It won't necessarily be cheaper [than the current system] as the plane would have to come to New Zealand empty.''

Freight, export markets and marketing were just three of the topics discussed during the annual Summerfruit New Zealand conference, which was held in Cromwell and Queenstown earlier this month.

''The conference was our most successful yet,'' Mr Jones said.

''The turnout was close to 220 people at the dinner, when normally we only get about 140 people.

''Grower attendance was fantastic, with many coming from Hawkes Bay, Central Otago and Marlborough.''

Mr Jones said keynote speaker Dr Greg Lang, of Michigan State University, opened the conference at The Nose, Cromwell, with an outline of where the cherry industry was heading and included a look at new planting systems being developed.

''A lot of growers bring staff so they can keep up with the trends.''

Speakers from Plant and Food Research as well as the New Zealand Fruit Tree Company, discussed the latest research projects before delegates had fun at the Highlands National Motorsport Museum.

Thursday's sessions were held in Queenstown and focused on marketing and the supply chain, meeting consumer requirements and grower tools.

A hands-on seminar took place at 45 South orchard on Friday, where about 100 delegates looked at new dwarf rootstock, new growing systems, rain cover trials and upright shooting offshoots or fruit walls.

''The highlight of this conference for me was the number of people who attended, despite the cold weather,'' Mr Jones said.

- yvonne.ohara@alliedpress.co.nz