Wednesday, 09 November 2022 07:25

Rockit set to launch south

Written by  Staff Reporters
Apple company Rockit has plans to expand south and is currently identifying suitable land and growers in Canterbury and Nelson. Apple company Rockit has plans to expand south and is currently identifying suitable land and growers in Canterbury and Nelson.

Apple company Rockit Global Limited is planning for its biggest planting year yet - targeting a further 200ha of trees in the ground in 2023.

The company is also expanding south, identifying suitable land and growers in Canterbury and Nelson - as well as seeking new partners in Hawke's Bay and Gisborne, where fruit is currently grown.

Despite sharing many of the same challenges as many other New Zealand fruit varieties this year, Rockit's forecast orchard gate return has progressively lifted across the year and the company is on track to deliver a record market price. This year more than 76 million New Zealand Rockit apples will be shipped, with up to 160 million apples expected in 2023.

General manager commercial Tom Lane says with international demand for the snack size apples is booming and new markets are opening up every year. Rockit apples are sold in more than 30 countries - including China, India, Vietnam, the USA and UAE. Currently, the company grows apples in the northern hemisphere (the USA, UK and Europe) as well as throughout New Zealand's east coast to ensure year-round global supply.

"We've already committed 100ha of new plantings across the east coast in 2023, with our most significant growth in Gisborne," Lane says. "We started with 3ha there in 2020, and we continue to seek new opportunities for growth in the eastern region."

With a thriving horticulture sector in both Canterbury and Nelson, Lane says it makes perfect sense to begin establishing a presence in the South Island.

"We've already begun the process of identifying some really great, fertile land, and some energetic forward-thinking growers interested in diversifying their business by growing Rockit apples - and we're on the lookout for more."

The company says it will work closely with new growers to ensure they are well supported as they put trees in the ground for the first-time next year. It is also evaluating opportunities to establish a Rockit Management Services (RMS) team offering full orchard management options as well as support and expertise for independent growers in the south.

"We're looking to partner with some truly great horticultural operators, as well as arable, sheep, beef and dairy farmers seeking new income streams," Lane adds. "There is certainly a massive opportunity in the south - stable weather conditions, good water supply, and the prospect of growing brilliantly coloured fruit for our markets across the globe."

He adds with its growers currently concentrated along the upper east coast, leaves the company exposed to weather events in Gisborne and Hawke's Bay. "We see the South Island as a logical move, and we'll be looking to scale relatively quickly to around 150ha over the coming years."

A feasibility study into establishing a shared packhouse facility in Canterbury is also underway.

Lane says that fully mature fruit coming from the South Island is likely to be slightly smaller in size than the apples that are harvested in Hawke's Bay and Gisborne.

"The countries we export to each have their own preferences when it comes to fruit size, so being able to deliver a range of sizes is very useful."

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