Ardgour Valley Orchards to export new apricot varieties bred by New Zealand’s Plant & Food Research

The new Nzsummer apricots

The new NZsummer apricots

New Zealand’s Ardgour Valley Orchards has officially launched its export programme for a series of new specialty apricot varieties bred by Plant & Food Research.

Ardgour Valley Orchards’ director Sharon Kirk said the varieties were specifically bred for the Central Otago growing region in New Zealand and would be exported progressively between December and February.

The apricots – NZsummer2, 3 and 4 – were bred especially for flavour, colour and shelf life. Ardgour Valley Orchards is the largest producer of these new NZsummer varieties and is among the largest apricot producers in New Zealand.

Kirk said the new varieties had excited customers who tasted fruit fresh from the trees last summer, impressing with sweet juicy flavour and high colour.

“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,” Kirk said.

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

“Depending on the weather, we expect to produce 70 to 80 tonnes this season - with fruit exported to Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, the Middle East, the US, the United Kingdom and Australia.”

NZsummer4 will be the first to harvest from mid-to-late December followed by NZsummer2 and NZsummer2 from late January to mid-March. Another variety, Kioto, and trial cultivars Summer 92 and Summer 820, would be available in limited volumes in February, she said.

“The apricots are super sweet with low acidity, firm texture and have an exceptionally bright colour. Quality apricots generally have a Brix between 11-14° and these consistently achieve a Brix of 14°-plus,” said Kirk.

Two of the varieties – NZsummer2 and 3 – store longer than other apricots due to an ethylene-recessive gene, making them ideal for export. Kirk said Ardgour Valley Orchards would eek feedback from the market before developing a brand for the apricot offering in time for next season.

Pack options this year would be a 3kg place pack, a 5kg loose pack and a punnet, she said.

“We showcased our offering at Asia Fruit Logistica in Hong Kong in September which generated significant excitement and we’ve had huge interest since – including from a large importer in Australia. Our customers can’t wait for the season to start,” Kirk explained.

“We’re fostering long-term relationships with buyers and retailers which we want to grow into the future. Customers in Dubai are planning to launch at retail level and we’re in negotiations with major supermarket customers in the United States and Australia.”

The trees, which are coming into their fourth season, will reach full production in 2026/27 when output is expected to reach 500 tonnes.