British apricot aficionados are soon to savour the unique tastes of New Zealand's specialty apricots, as Central Otago's Ardgour Valley Orchards gears up for its inaugural export season.
Sharon Kirk, director of Ardgour Valley Orchards, stated that three specially bred varieties, tailored for Central Otago's unique climate by New Zealand’s Plant & Food Research, are set for progressive export from December to February. These include several established, well-regarded varieties.
"This season, subject to weather conditions, we anticipate a yield of 70 to 80 tonnes," Kirk remarked, noting that the exports will reach a global audience, including destinations such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, the Middle East, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
As the foremost producer of these innovative NZsummer varieties, Ardgour Valley Orchards is also a leading apricot producer in New Zealand.
The NZsummer2, 3, and 4 apricot varieties, lauded for their exceptional flavour, vibrant colour, and prolonged shelf life, have garnered customer acclaim for their succulent taste and vivid hues.
Kirk highlighted, "Despite some challenging growing conditions, including frosts and a snowstorm, we're optimistic about our first entry into the international market." She added that the 25 hectares of orchards, cultivated over the past three years, have thrived under these conditions, bearing an abundant fruit load.
The specialty NZsummer4 variety is expected to be the first harvested, between mid and late December, followed by NZsummer2 and 3 from late January to mid-March. Other varieties, including Kioto and trial cultivars Summer 92 and Summer 820, will be available in limited quantities in February.
Kirk emphasised the unique characteristics of these apricots, noting their extraordinary sweetness, low acidity, firm texture, and bright colour. "These apricots consistently achieve a brix measure (sugar content) of over 14, surpassing the usual range of 11-14 found in quality apricots."
She revealed that two of the varieties, Nzsummer2 and 3, possess a longer storage life due to an ethylene-recessive gene, making them particularly suitable for export.
Plans are underway to develop a brand for the apricot range, based on market feedback, in time for the next season. Kirk recalled the enthusiasm generated at Asia Fruit Logistica in Hong Kong this September and the subsequent high interest, including from a major Australian importer.
This year's packaging options include a 3kg place pack, a 5kg loose pack, and a punnet. The orchards, now in their fourth season, are projected to reach full production in 2026-2027, with an expected output of 500 tonnes.
Ardgour Valley Orchards also cultivates several cherry varieties, including the unique white-fleshed Stardust variety, available in limited quantities from early to mid-January.
All produce from Ardgour Valley Orchards is packed in Central Otago prior to global air freight distribution.