NZ cherries fetch premium price for Chinese New Year

A strong cherry season in New Zealand has resulted in greater exports to China in time for Lunar New Year celebrations.

New Zealand Cherry Corp owner Henry van der Velden says both yields and quality have been good throughout the season.

“Yields are up on 2015 season and quality has been excellent to date,” he says, noting the weather has also played a part in these outcomes.

“Weather has been very dry until late last week. It’s one of the driest summers we have had for a long time. We have had some recent rain, which has had some effect, however our volumes will still be well up on 2015.”

The company has the largest covered orchard in New Zealand, with 25,000 trees over 40 hectares in the Cromwell region near Queenstown on the South Island. Mr van der Velden says the majority of fruit is exported, with a significant amount going to China each season.

“Eighty per cent of our volume is for export, and of that twenty-five per cent is for China. The balance goes to Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Russia, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Korea and Vietnam,” he says.

“Demand is good particularly from China. For China the main considerations are quality, size, taste – and customers are loving our product.”

He says this season they are sending China a mix of Lapins, Sweetheart, Skeena and Staccato varieties, mainly in two kilogram and five kilogram boxes.

“This year our customers also requested that we produce a new 1kg cube box, which they love. We also have a very high end premium box for our Kiwi Delight brand which is like a chocolate box for cherries.”

Every year China receives huge volumes of cherries from all over the world, with South American countries such as Chile sending the largest quantities to meet demand for the season, particularly around Chinese New Year.

Mr van der Velden says there is a significant difference between cherries from different countries, and buyers in China are now becoming more aware of these distinctions.

“Chile is a volume supplier. We are a premium quality supplier. Our customers trust our brands to be premium large fruit - Red Sensation, Red Envy and Cherry Delight. We focus on the quality and delivering the customer the right product on time in the right box,” he says.

“We are also now dealing with direct buyers such as department stores, supermarkets, fruit shops and online sales.”

He says New Zealand Cherry Corp also makes sure their exports are geographically spread throughout China “to avoid relying on any one market”.

“This strategy has worked very well for us.”