|The combination of soil and climate means that Central Otago is especially suited to the growing of apricots and cherries. The quality of these certainly matches fruit from anywhere else.
Feraud, an immigrant from France, planted the first fruit tress in the district. In 1864 he established a small orchard near Clyde. Unfortunately, as the only means of access to the market at Dunedin was via bullock wagon over 210 kilometres of marginal track, his business and the industry did not thrive at this time.
However, with the advent of improved transport (road and rail) and the use of irrigation the growing of horticultural crops became a profitable proposition. In 2007 there are 1375 ha. planted in horticultural crops, predominantly stone fruit such as cherry and apricot. Pipfruit, such as apples and pears, has progressively become less profitable and planted areas and the number of growers and people employed has declined.
One current challenge for Central horticulturalists is to move to low residue or organic production. Due to its harsh cold winters and warm dry summers Central Otago is best placed of all areas in New Zealand to produce fruit with the minimal amount of chemical assistance. Low residue and organic production systems and marketing programmes that emphasise the quality rather than quantity of Central’s fruit will enable a niche industry to maintain and increase its viability.
Another challenge is to maximise the returns and command premiums in the markets it sells to. Image and quality of fruit is all important.