Cheery future ahead for industry: report

Packhouse worker James Paterson, of Rangiora, checks cherries at 45 South packhouse in Cromwell...
Packhouse worker James Paterson, of Rangiora, checks cherries at 45 South packhouse in Cromwell yesterday. PHOTO: SHANNON THOMSON
It appears to be all merry for the cherry this season.

But as one grower says "you are only one rainfall away from making a living to making a loss."

A Ministry for Primary Industries’ situation and outlook report for primary industries released yesterday, showed a strong future for New Zealand horticulture, with forecast export revenue rising to $8.19billion by 2025, outstripping forestry.

The report highlighted the strong growth of cherries — the bulk of which are grown in Central Otago.

"They are an increasingly promising crop with export revenue up 8% to $84million in the year to June 20, 2023 due to production expansion and forecast to grow 14% to $96m in the year to June 30, 2024," she said.

"We have some favourable winds blowing for cherry growers. With a later Chinese New Year falling on February 10 this season, our cherry growers will have a longer window to make the most of the key markets who are a part of these celebrations and receive premium prices.

"Additional airline routes from Christchurch to China and Hong Kong during the cherry export season will also be favourable for Central Otago growers."

Roxburgh grower Chris Toms said cherries were so far, of a good quality, good colour and taste. The weather conditions had been pretty much ideal, little to no rain and temperatures well above 20°C.

The arrival of China Southern Airlines in Christchurch brings three additional flights to China a week, offering more freight space and freight rates had also reduced.

Workers were also in good supply and he was getting seven to eight calls a day with people looking for a job.

Amisfield Contracting grower Hayden Little said their cherry block west of Cromwell had started picking four days ago and the fruit was in great condition.

Freight rates had come down which was also good.

He said there was plenty of workers around who were keen to work in Central Otago.