Established orchard has eye to the future

Established orchard has eye to the future
Thawley Orchard owns about 32.5 hectares planted in apples and pears in the Moutere Hills.

Investment in onsite packing and cool storage, freighting solutions and planting new pipfruit varieties are future-proofing a century-old family orchard business near Nelson.
The Thawley family orchard near Nelson has supplied export quality pip fruit to New Zealand and international markets since the first apple trees were planted in 1914.
These days the family owns about 32.5 hectares planted in apples and pears in the Moutere Hills, and employs more than 80 staff during the busy harvest and packing which runs from February to May.
Owner Jim Thawley said investment in new cool storage facilities and a container truck for transporting direct to port for shipping overseas has been a successful business move, giving the company better control of costs and timing for freighting, as well as an additional income stream from making storage and transport available to neighbouring orchards.
The packhouse processes around 200,000 cartons of fruit each year, packing for several orchards between the Waimea plains and Riwaka.
The company packed some 1300 tonnes of apples and pears this season, which was well down on last year’s above-average volumes, he said.
Domestic sales account for about five percent of production and are handled by Freshmax, mostly through Foodstuff and Countdown distribution centres.
Freshmax Exports handles the majority of the other 95 percent export crop, with at least half it now going into Asian markets, including China, India, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia.
Europe and the United Kingdom are also key and growing markets, whilst volumes to the US have decreased this year.
“Our main export packing season finishes late May or early June, all from normal air storage, but by using controlled atmosphere storage where oxygen levels are reduced to under 2% in contracted stores off site, our pears can still be marketed until December of the same year as harvested,” says Jim.

Established orchard has eye to the future
The Thawley family orchard near Nelson has supplied export quality pip fruit to New Zealand and international markets since the fi rst apple trees were planted in 1914.

Orchard manager Leigh Thawley says over the past decade the company has been redeveloping by removing poor producing or low return blocks and replacing with more intensive plantings in keeping with industry standards.
“This year we have removed over three hectares of older orchards and we will be replanting with some 5000 new trees.”
New and improved apple varieties such as Dazzle, Galaxy, Kanzi, and improved Braeburn strains are popular choices for Asian markets, as well as Royal Gala, Kanzi, Kiku (a high colour strain of Fuji), Cripps Pink, and Sonya replacing the older Braeburn and Fuji varieties.
Meanwhile popular pear varieties include Beurre Bosc, Taylors Gold, DD Comice and now Piqa Boo which is also looking to have very good potential in Asia.
“We will be planting 2400 trees of Dazzle on CG202 and 2600 of Galaxy on CG202 also and an-other 500 Kanzi, but some of these are for replacing trees that have died from European Canker.
“The trees have been ordered years in advance to secure the rootstocks we require for our soil type which some other rootstocks can struggle with,” says Leigh.
“We are planning ahead around three years in advance to get what we need and when.”
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