Episode 12 - Kiwi Gold Rush
On the next episode, screening Sunday 27 May at 7pm on TVNZ 1:
What do you do if your orchard is full of some of the largest fruit you’ve ever grown, but you are unable to pick it just yet?
For long-time kiwifruit grower, Alan Thompson, that was his ten-day dilemma at the start of this year’s harvest.
“We had a bumper crop of some of the biggest kiwifruit I have produced during my 30 years as a grower,” says Alan. But while the fruit was large and in perfect condition, Northland’s crazy summer meant he was unable to get it off the vines of his Kerikeri orchards.
Since Christmas, Northland has had 550 mls of rain. “That’s 25 inches in the old money,” says Alan. “We battled three cyclones and cloudy conditions. It felt like we would never get a blue-sky day.”
It meant all of Alan’s maturity tests for his kiwifruit crops kept failing. “If our fruit doesn’t meet the Zespri standard for taste, colour and mass, then we simply can’t pick it.”
Zespri has a number of regulations which ensure consistency when fruit arrives at its export destination. If growers fail to pass those standards, the fruit stays on the vines and they can’t cash in on the added incentives for fruit which is exported ahead of our competitors.
There are three to four weeks at the start of the season where growers try to get fruit into the National Kiwifruit Inventory before cut off. In those early weeks, the incentives can be worth up to 20 percent a tray for growers.
The testing process is rigorous and sample fruit is taken from Alan’s orchards in Kerikeri and driven south to the Eurofins laboratory at Katikati in the Bay of Plenty.
Staff test the fruit, checking on size, taste and colour. They also conduct dry matter tests, which is an indication of how sweet the kiwifruit will be when they are ripe and ready to be sold.
The results of these tests, whether a pass or fail, are then relayed back to the growers. “Eurofins usually send their results through to me about 5 o’clock in the morning,” says Alan. “I am always quite anxious about which areas are cleared, so there are some rather bad sleep patterns at this time of year.”
Alan says the success of the new PSA tolerant Sun Gold kiwifruit is taking our export markets by storm. He says there is a bullish feeling at the moment with Zespri wanting to double the size of the national kiwifruit crop in the next 10 years.
The Thompson’s have purchased bare land to convert into new kiwifruit blocks. “Over the years we’ve seen prices and demand go up and down. We’ve seen the bottom of the curve, now we are on the rise again”. For that reason, says Alan, you have to grow SunGold Kiwifruit if you want to stay in the industry.
Find out about the Thompson's wines here.
Read more about SunGold Kiwifruit here.
Find out about Kainui Beer here.
Read about Winemaker Rod MacIvor and Marsden Estate Winery here.
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