A kiwifruit orchard containing one of the country’s biggest plantings of Zespri’s new high-value Ruby Red fruit variety has been placed on the market for sale.
The north-facing 17.28-hectare property near Kerikeri in Northland comprises some 13-hectares of kiwifruit growing area – equating to 10-hectares of the Zespri Ruby Red varietal under canopy, with the other remaining portion of the block identified for future orchard expansion.
Kiwifruit administration body Zespri is forecasting that demand for the Zespri Ruby Red variety – technically known as Red19 - across key markets from 2022 to 2032 could grow to 15 million trays, with key intended export markets comprising Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Australia.
Red19 will be branded under Zespri’s master brand, but sold under a specific variant name, and with a differential premium pricing strategy.
In June, Zespri chairman Bruce Cameron issued a 2022/2023 earnings forecast for kiwifruit production. The forecast estimated the Zespri Ruby Red varietal to be earning between $17 - $19 a tray. That compares with an earnings forecast for the Zespri Green varietal of between $6 - $7.50 per tray, and an earnings forecast for the Zespri SunGold varietal of between $10.25 - $11.75 per tray.
Superbly positioned to capitalise on Zespri’s growth predictions for the Red19 variety, the orchard at 403 Te Ahu Ahu Road some seven kilometres from Kerikeri , is now being marketed for sale by negotiation through Bayleys Kerikeri. Salesperson Alan Kerr said an orchard of this quality, size, and scale planted in the new Ruby Red variety was extremely rare to find.
“This is a turnkey investment opportunity with all the growing support infrastructure in place, and now requiring only ongoing canopy management, and we have management operators available to become involved in this capacity,” said Kerr.
“A production forecast for the Ahu Ahu Road operation has identified that the orchard should produce 1,000 trays of fruit in the 2024/25 season, progressing exponentially to 8,000 trays in the following season, and peaking up to 13,000 trays in the 2027/28 harvesting period.
“The entire orchard is net covered and also has side drop covers – enabling the entire planting to be fully enclosed if conditions require. There is also vertical under-vine cloth spaced between every eighth row for additional wind reduction and temperature control to create a warmer growing environment.
“This sheltered growing environment is perfect for the Ruby Red variety. Being under cover with both internal and external headlands means that orchard work can continue, irrespective of weather conditions,” he said.
The orchard is planted in Bruno rootstock at a concentration of 1,023 stock plants per hectare.
“The locale’s soils are formed on older basalt lava which is low in silica and rich in iron and aluminium. These are classic soils suitable to both orchards and market gardening. All mature basalt volcanic soils are generally free draining and require few drainage improvements,” he said.
For irrigation, the orchard has supply via an agreement with the Cooks Lane Water Company. This allows the Ahu Ahu Road property to draw up to 576 cubic metres of water daily, and up to 70,144 cubic metres of water annually.
Zespri has high hopes for its new Ruby Red/Red19 varietal – backing it with new branding distinguishing it from the Zespri Green and Zespri SunGold varietals. The vitamin C concentrations found in Red19 are higher than Hayward and Gold3.
Zespri’s marketing information on the Red19 crop says the variety will be positioned in the ‘premium’ fruit market where consumption is increasing at a greater rate than the general fruit category.
“This growth has been disproportionately large compared with growth in the overall fruit category,” says the Zespri Red19 market report.
“The Zespri Red proposition has been purposely developed to take full advantage of this opportunity. Consumer market research in 2019 has shown evidence that Red19 could potentially attract customers of other premium and exotic fruits, with participants indicating that this fruit group was the most likely to be substituted for Zespri Red.”