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A new Southern Hemisphere sweet cherry production season recently kicked off and looks set to bring record cherry volumes, according to a new report by agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank.

In the report Southern Hemisphere Cherries, Growing Exports and Challenges, Rabobank says the Southern Hemisphere production season runs from mid-October through to mid-February supplying world markets across this period.

“Chile is by far the largest exporter of cherries in the Southern Hemisphere – accounting for 96 per cent of total Southern Hemisphere exports last season – with the remainder coming from South Africa, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand,” report co-author Agricultural Analyst Pia Piggott (pictured) said. “According to our estimates, exports from Chile will continue to increase in the coming season, while we’re also expecting record cherry volumes across all other major Southern Hemisphere cherry exporters other than Australia.

“This will test how the ‘return to normal’ post Covid is working, and how the main export destination markets will behave. With China a key export market for Southern Hemisphere cherry producers, including New Zealand, all eyes will be on the Chinese market to see how the country’s continuing zero-Covid policy impacts demand.”

The report says cherry producers in the Southern Hemisphere are all facing similar challenges in the form of increasing competition and narrowing margins due to elevated production costs. “Chile, Argentina, and Australia are all moving in the same direction in terms of improving the efficiency in their processes, focusing on high-quality production, and diversifying their destination markets,” Ms Piggott said.

“We also expect to see these countries continuing to try to bring forward production in order to avoid the peak of supply in the Chinese market.”


New Zealand update

Piggott said New Zealand’s cherry industry remains relatively small. “The New Zealand industry consists of less than 1000 hectares of plantings, with the majority of these in the Central Otago region.” she said. “This compares to more than 2500 hectares of plantings in Australia.”

According to Ms Piggott, New Zealand’s reputation for producing quality cherries means New Zealand cherries attract some of the highest prices in the world. “New Zealand cherries are very expensive, and only Japanese cherries attract higher prices,” she said.

“Cherries from New Zealand are predominantly bought as a luxury gift in celebration of the Chinese New Year, with the largest export volumes going to Taiwan, followed by China, Vietnam and Thailand.”

Ms Piggott said New Zealand cherry exports have fallen in recent years due to La Nina weather conditions and logistical issues linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Over the next few years growing conditions should become more favourable as La Nina comes to an end in early 2023, and we expect to see New Zealand cherry production and export volumes improve from pandemic levels.”

Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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