Monday, February 26, 2024

Otago’s new apricots planning their maiden voyage

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Varieties bred for flavour, colour and shelf life getting rave reviews ahead of their export debut.
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Apricot lovers around the world will have their first taste of New Zealand’s specialty apricots this southern hemisphere summer when Central Otago producer Ardgour Valley Orchards officially launches its export programme.

Ardgour Valley Orchards director Sharon Kirk said three specialty varieties bred by Plant & Food Research specifically for the Central Otago growing region will be exported progressively between December and February. 

The programme will include several well-known, proven varieties.

Ardgour Valley Orchards is the largest producer of these new NZ summer varieties and is among the largest apricot producers in the country.

The apricots – Nzsummer2, 3 and 4 – were bred especially for flavour, colour and shelf life. They excited customers who tasted the fruit fresh from the trees last summer, she said. They were impressed with their sweet flavour and high colour.


Specialty variety Nzsummer4 will be the first to harvest, from mid- to late December, followed by Nzsummer2 and 3 from late January to mid-March.

“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 25 hectares 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 70-80 tonnes this season, with fruit exported to Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, the Middle East, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.”

Specialty variety Nzsummer4 will be the first to harvest, from mid- to late December, followed by Nzsummer2 and 3 from late January to mid-March. Other varieties, Kioto and trial cultivars Summer 92 and Summer 820 will 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 (measure of sugar content) between 11-14 and these consistently achieve a brix of 14-plus.”

Two of the varieties – Nzsummer2 and 3 – store longer than other apricots due to an ethylene-recessive gene, making them ideal for export, she said.


Ardgour Valley Orchards director Sharon Kirk said three varieties bred by Plant & Food Research specifically for the Central Otago growing region will be exported between December and February.

Kirk, an experienced export and marketing executive, said she will seek feedback from the market before developing a brand for the apricot offering in time for next season.

“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.

“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.”

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

The trees, which are coming into their fourth season, will reach full production in 2026-2027, when output is expected to reach 500t.

Ardgour Valley Orchards also produces several cherry varieties, including a distinctive, white-fleshed variety, Stardust. It will be available in small quantities from early-to-mid January.

All fruit produced by Ardgour Valley Orchards will be packed in Central Otago before being air-freighted around the world.

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