Apricot orchard readies first export consignment

Ardgour Valley Orchards director Sharon Kirk is reporting a heavy apricot crop ahead of the...
Ardgour Valley Orchards director Sharon Kirk is reporting a heavy apricot crop ahead of the orchard’s first export consignment. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Central Otago apricot exporter Ardgour Valley Orchards will be launching its first export programme this month, as it races to keep up with a heavy crop load.

The 38ha orchard is on Ardgour Station, a Tarras sheep and beef station owned by the Jolly family since 1955. 

Ardgour Valley Orchards was established to produce superior apricots and cherries for export and is among the largest apricot producers in New Zealand.

Ardgour Valley Orchards’ director Sharon Kirk said three specialty varieties bred by New Zealand’s Plant & Food Research specifically for the Central Otago growing region would be exported progressively this season.

Apricot specialty varieties Nzsummer2, 3 and 4 were bred especially for flavour, colour and shelf life and customers were excited and impressed with the sweet juicy flavour and high colour, she said.

"It will be our first year in the international market and we’re forecasting a good crop, despite some variable growing conditions including several frosts and a snowstorm leading into the season.

"The 25ha of trees which we planted over the past three years coped well with the conditions and are laden with fruit.

"There’s such a heavy crop load, we are thinning out fruit, which will in turn boost fruit size," Mrs Kirk said.

The company hopes to produce 70 tonnes to 80 tonnes this season, and is targeting markets in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, the Middle East, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Specialty variety NZsummer4 would be the first to harvest later this month.

NZsummer2 and 3 will be harvested from late next month to mid-March. 

These varieties stored longer than other apricots due to an ethylene-recessive gene, making them ideal for export, Mrs Kirk said.

Other varieties, Kioto, and trial cultivars Summer 92 and Summer 820, would be available in limited volumes in February.

Feedback would be sought from the market before developing a brand for next season’s apricot offering.

Mrs Kirk said a showcase at Asia Fruit Logistica in Hong Kong in September generated significant excitement and interest, including from a large importer in Australia. 

Customers in Dubai were planning to launch at retail level and the company was negotiating with major supermarket customers in the US and Australia, she said.

The trees were coming into their fourth season and would reach full production in 2026-27, when output was expected to reach 500 tonnes.

Ardgour Valley Orchards also produces several cherry varieties, including a distinctive, white-fleshed variety (Stardust). 

It will be available in small quantities  early-to-mid next month.

All fruit produced by Ardgour Valley Orchards will be packed in Central Otago before being air freighted around the world.