An increase of about 50% in conventional apple production and 40% in organic apple production is predicted for Central Otago by 2024.

T & G regional manager Jeff McDonald said many of its Central Otago supplier orchardists were pulling out older, lower-producing apple varieties and replacing with new varieties.

They are also planting new blocks, which will start producing in three to five years.
‘‘The industry is in a growth phase,’’ Mr McDonald said.
‘‘All our growers are replanting using high intensive planting formation systems, 2000 trees per hectare, (up from 800 trees/ha) or planning new orchards to get more production per hectare.
‘‘It is much like a wall of fruit and makes the trees easier to pick and prune.’’

They are expecting about 1.4 million cartons of apples and some summerfruit to be produced by their Central Otago suppliers, most of which needed to be packed and stored at the Ettrick coolstores until being trucked to Dunedin for export.

In anticipation of ‘‘beating the wave of fruit we know is coming’’, the company is building two additional coolstores on their Ettrick site, to be completed by Christmas.

Another two to three will follow, ‘‘depending on how quickly the fruit comes online.’’
The multimillion-dollar project will provide 9000sq m of storage, including some controlled atmosphere storage as well as refrigeration.

Central Otago Organics Ltd leases space at the Ettrick site for packing and storage of organic-grown apples and cherries and will need more.

Co-owner Maree Denniston, of Alexandra, said the company recently planted blocks in Earnscleugh and other areas would come online in about three years, which meant a 40% increase in production and a need to lease more space.
‘‘We also pack for eight other growers as well, as well as a grower in Nelson and two in Christchurch.’’

The demand for organic produce is increasing and they require staff at the same time as conventional orchardists.
‘‘Finding enough picking staff is a whole other saga.’’

T & G Ettrick site manager Rodger Brown said it was also putting in fire engine access to the site off Domain Rd and doubling its water storage from 120,000 litres to 240,000 litres, for the coolstores, emergency services and neighbours in case of drought.
It would need to hire extra seasonal staff and one fulltime person per coolstore.
‘‘It is always a challenge finding forklift operators.’’

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