A new season brings a new competitor for New Zealand cherry exporters in one of their most lucrative markets.
With growers from the Australian mainland set to begin sending fruit to China over the upcoming campaign, coupled with Chile’s desire to continue ramping-up its airfeight programmes, competition at the premium end of the market will be higher than ever.
While seemingly aware of the situation, New Zealand exporters appear focused on controlling what’s in their own hands and letting their fruit do the rest.
"We are aware of Australia being in the market and already receiving feedback from clients on their pricing and quality," says Pure Pac’s international sales manager Sharon Kirk. "Competition is good, we just need to be on top of our quality to satisfy customers."
Forecasts suggest a solid season lies ahead, with good volumes and fruit sizing up well. Warm spring weather across most growing regions means harvests have started earlier than anticipated.
Pure Pac, a consortium of seven New Zealand cherry growers based in the key Central Otago production hub, started its domestic market sales programme on 9 December, one week ahead of schedule. Export programmes were scheduled to begin in mid to late December.
“Again this is early for our growers,” adds Kirk. “We anticipate being in full swing for export from 30 December with our Lapins. Compared to previous years, brix levels are high for this time of the year, 18-20 brix already with great flavour.”
Kirk anticipates fruit will be harvested until 29 January, subject to weather, which should still provide a window to supply selected Asian markets in the lead-up to Chinese New Year (16 February).
“We have started one week early so we anticipate we will finish harvest a week earlier,” Kirk explains, “We are working closely with clients to ensure we deliver the fruit as close to Chinese New Year as possible.”