Thursday, 06 June 2024 08:25

Table grape grower eyes growth

Written by  Staff Reporters
Until now table grape growing has been a very small industry in New Zealand, with just 30 hectares devoted to commercial production across the country. Until now table grape growing has been a very small industry in New Zealand, with just 30 hectares devoted to commercial production across the country.

With the first harvest of high-quality table grapes from 700 vines just completed, the attention of Japanese company Greencollar is on preparing to harvest from 1400 vines next summer, and putting in another 1500 this planting season.

With the 400 planted in 2023, that will bring the vine count to near 3000. This year’s first harvest confirms the premium grape varieties, Yuho and Violet King, will excel in Hawke’s Bay’s proven grape-growing climate. The large seedless grapes are very popular for their sweetness, flavour and thin skins.

Until now, table grape growing has been a very small industry in New Zealand, with just 30ha devoted to commercial production across the country. Greencollar is determined to take advantage of the East Coast’s impressive growing conditions to rapidly build the industry, starting with planting 20 hectares in Hastings.

By full production – around 2029, depending on planting year – the vineyard is expected to yield around 240 tonnes of ultra-high quality table grapes, to be exported mainly to Japan and wider Asia, but also sold on the New Zealand market, says Hastings-based chief executive Shin Koizumi.

Growing ultra-high quality table grapes in New Zealand will allow Greencollar to sell the grapes in Japan and Asia during those regions’ offseason. Considered the King of Fruit in Japan, a bunch is often beautifully gift-wrapped and presented to show gratitude, or to wish someone season’s greetings.

This year, all the grapes were sold on the New Zealand market, primarily via high-end retail outlets, with a plan to export for the first-time next harvest.

The specially-bred grapes, Yuho and Violet King, are sweet, thinskinned, seedless and packed with flavour and require a great deal of care. At the beginning of the growing season, just one bunch per shoot is selected to stay on the vine with the rest of the flowers carefully removed. Each of the remaining bunches is hand-thinned three times to increase fragrance and sweetness, covered by delicate paper, and further protected by a little umbrella shade.

While growing the world’s best seedless table grapes is the prime aim, the company is also focused on ensuring the company’s employees have a work-life balance that is not typical in Japan.

Koizumi is passionate about grapes, but he is equally passionate about people having meaningful work balanced with opportunities for leisure that enhance their lives.

“For 30 years I worked in an office as a typical white-collar worker, commuted on a packed train, meeting after meeting, then I went home late at night just to sleep.

“I was searching for a new lifestyle where I wasn’t white-collar, nor blue-collar. I wanted to work under the blue sky and sun, that’s when I founded Greencollar.

“The passion for grapes comes from time spent helping his grandparents harvest fruit in Yamanashi prefecture.

“What we are doing now, growing grapes in Hastings and in rural Japan, brings together all of those elements – beautiful fruit, a wonderful lifestyle and making people happy.”

The Hawke’s Bay venture complements an 8ha vineyard the company has planted in Japan.

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