NZ: Hortinvest releases third cherry project amid "unprecedented" global demand -

NZ: Hortinvest releases third cherry project amid "unprecedented" global demand

New Zealand horticultural investment consultancy Hortinvest has released its third cherry investment project in two years to meet "unprecedented" global demand for premium cherries.

The NZ$15.5 million, 80-hectare project at Mt Pisa, near Cromwell on the South Island, is expected to reach full production by the 2025-26 summer.

It said that investors seeking opportunities in the expanding New Zealand horticulture market have until March 29 to express interest.

The launch follows the recent release of another NZ$15.5 million, 80-hectare Lindis River project and the successful planting of Hortinvest's first project, Tarras Cherry Corp, which is due to harvest its first crop in the 2020-21 summer.

The Hortinvest team, led by project and orchard development manager Ross Kirk and marketing and sales manager, Sharon Kirk has specific and extensive experience in cherry orchard management practices and export compliance.

Kirk said the latest offering consolidated Hortinvest's intention to develop New Zealand's cherry industry for the long-term.

"New Zealand has distinct key competitive advantages such as the climate and conditions, proximity to markets and free trade agreements with Asia. Hortinvest has the proven expertise to leverage off this to grow and market premium Central Otago cherries to the world," he said.

Hortinvest sources its own land, establishes high-tech orchards and packhouses and markets produce, eliminating the need for third-party contractors and maximizing returns.

The company secured the Mt Pisa site in collaboration with a leading agricultural producer seeking to diversify into horticulture, he said.

"The project has the scope to expand beyond 80 hectares over time. The vendor has a family farming legacy spanning several generations and the property is ripe for redevelopment," Kirk said.

"Its geographic and climatic attributes tick all the boxes to deliver a large-scale cherry project supported by world-leading orchard management and packhouse technologies and systems implemented by experts.

"The site's significant point of difference is its elevation (some 300 meters above sea level) which means it is naturally less frost-prone. Bird nets and up to eight windmills will bolster the frost-fighting efforts during the crucial spring period," he said.

New Zealand produced almost 6,000 metric tons (MT) of cherries in the 2017-18 season, of which around three-quarters were exported, according to industry body Summerfruit New Zealand. Most exports are sent to China and Taiwan.

Cherries burst onto investment scene

According to the Investors Guide to the New Zealand Produce Industry (2017), prepared for the New Zealand Government, horticultural investment opportunities abound, specifically in apples and kiwifruit, with other lines such as cherries emerging as contenders.

Kirk said while Hortinvest's initial focus was on cherries, the company had its sights set on other fruit developments in its long-term strategic plan. 

"It's too early to discuss specifics, but we have a number of other future orchard developments in the pipeline, outside the cherry space," he said.

"Our current projects are attracting widespread attention from prospective investors. We have the confidence in the horticultural investment market and expertise to deliver significant horticultural projects."