Chinese taste for Central Otago cherries sparks change in way Kiwi growers do business

This year China is set to become the biggest consumer of Central Otago cherries, taking the top spot off traditional favourite Taiwan.

With the big show of interest from the Chinese market, orchardists here are trying new ways of spreading their message. Source: 1 NEWS

With the relative new Chinese market showing a big interest in the export crop, orchardists are taking new approaches to the way they spread their message to the world.

Chinese, including heavyweights from the social media world, are in the region checking out the cherries.

China is set to become the biggest consumer of Central Otago cherries, taking the top spot off Taiwan. Source: 1 NEWS

They're documenting the fruit from the orchard, to the packhouse and finally to the plate.

"Certainly, Central Otago cherries have a very good reputation in China and people are crazy about why Central Otago can produce such good quality fruit," says Zefei Zhou from Foodview China.

The word of mouth approach is changing the way Kiwi growers do business.

"I think it is the way of the future. Traditional selling methods of sending fruit to an importer through a wholesale market and not actually knowing where it ends up - I think these days are numbered," says Tim Jones, general manager of 45 South Orchard.

Eight local growers have formed a collective brand to make Central Otago fruit the star of the show.

"Growers are getting extra value for their fruit, their market penetration is greater, the direct market model is really brilliant - it leaves here and it's on a Chinese housewive's kitchen bench two or three days later," says Malcolm McPherson, Premium Fruit chairman.

Speed is of the essence in the fruit game and any significant rain can now wipe millions of dollars off a bumper crop's value.

"We just need mother nature to turn the sun on for us and we'll be pretty happy."

With the visitors sending happy stories back to China around 1000 tonnes of cherries are expected to head there in coming weeks.