Cherries are set to be an export crop for Hawke's Bay, selling into overseas markets already established by Otago growers.
Hawke's Bay cherries ripen earlier than those in the South Island which helps aid the move to export, a move born out of necessity, says New Zealand Summerfruit Representative Richard Mills.
He said the supply of Hawke's Bay cherries is set to exceed national demand.
"In my estimation there are more cherries planted in Hawke's Bay now than we need to supply the New Zealand market from October/November through to Christmas and through to the new year, which is when the Central Otago fruit will generally take over the market.
"We have the possibility of exporting cherries, in the first instance, out of Hawke's Bay.
Then we can grow the growing, of the hectarage of cherries in Hawke's Bay. Peaches, nectarines, plums are all possible, as well."
Summerfruit New Zealand represents about 280 apricot, cherry, nectarine, peach and plum growers.
It is a diverse group compared with the booming apple industry, which is increasingly corporatising as new varieties open big markets worldwide and will soon be a billion-dollar industry.
Mills said currently stonefruit lacked the technology which allowed apples to be exported worldwide all year.
You can store an apple with technology for 12 months.
"It's not the best apple after 12 months but it is still storable, still saleable, still edible.
"Can you store a stonefruit for that long? An apricot, a cherry, an apricot, a nectarine or a plum?
"No, you can store if for some weeks if it is in best condition. So we are probably limited to airfreight in general because of that short shelf life."
He said Chile, the biggest exporter of cherries in the world, sent most of its fruit via seafreight to Asia.
"We could possibly do the same thing but at the moment we fly all of our cherries, aiming at different marketing - the New Zealand premium as opposed to the Chilean bulk supply."
Other potential issues have been avoided, he said. Covid presented challenges to the supply chain last year but were overcome. Labour supply is also not a problem because summerfruit was "in an enviable position" with harvest aligning with student holidays.
"We've hired, along with the other industries, a person to be in Central Otago to co-ordinate labour in that area. There is also a labour co-ordinator here in Hawke's Bay.
"Central Otago is not completely dependent on RSEs as Hawke's Bay may be, and there are still a few backpackers around who never got home.
"But we have pushed the button on university students in particular. Their holidays have largely coincided with the summerfruit harvest season in Central Otago and in Hawke's Bay.
"So while it has been tight, and there has been more Kiwis coming onboard for sure, we've got through."
He said the export of Hawke's Bay cherries is a few seasons away, with the possibility yet to be fully discussed by industry.
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