Grape plantings soar

ON THE UP: Grape plantings have boomed since the early 2000s.
John Bisset

ON THE UP: Grape plantings have boomed since the early 2000s.

The New Zealand area planted in wine grapes has soared by 100 per cent in the last 12 years, according to Statistics New Zealand.

Between 2002 and June 2014, the area of land planted in grapes jumped from 17,300 to 34,130 hectares.

Statistics were also released for the area planted in apples, cherries, blackcurrants, avocados and kiwifruit over the same period.

Cherry, blackcurrant and avocado plantings increased slightly, from 550 to 610 ha (cherries), 1310 to 1510 ha (blackcurrants) and 3110 to 3880 (avocados).

Apple plantings fell from 11,270 to 8480 ha, while kiwifruit increased slightly from 11,840 to 12,170 ha over 12 years.

However Pipfruit NZ business development manager Gary Jones said the statistics did not tell the full story about apples. Even though the area planted was smaller, more apples were being produced.

This season growers would pick 550,000 tonnes of apples, the biggest crop since 2004.

Jones said 2002 coincided with the de-regulation of the Apple and Pear Marketing Board, when grower numbers were falling because they were struggling to make ends meet.

"The industry has totally transformed after growers were lacking the right market signals. There are now more varieties and much more production per hectare," Jones said.

The World Apple Report rated New Zealand the highest productive region in the world, at 63 tonnes per ha, while the next best, Chile lagged behind at 41.3 tonnes per ha.

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Jones said 50 per cent of trees were under 10 years old, as growers planted new varieties. He predicted there would be a 5 per cent increase in plantings this year and that there would be a record crop in two years' time.

The majority - 67 per cent - of the industry was based in Hawke's Bay, while the next largest region was Nelson at 26 per cent.

New Zealand Winegrowers CEO Philip Gregan said there had been a rapid increase in plantings between 2002-08, but then a hiatus until 2013 when plantings renewed.

The period 2009-12 had seen sales catch up with the areas planted.

The biggest focus for plantings had been Marlborough over the 2002-14 period, but the region would soon expand into its natural limit, he predicted.

Growers would attempt to grow into relatively untried areas, such as Kapiti.

Unlike apples, grapes had not much improved in productivity over the years, Gregan said.

Kiwifruit plantings were hit hard by the PSA virus in 2010, but the industry has bounced back with the release of a new gold variety.

 - Stuff

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