Story: Stone fruit and the summerfruit industry

Apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches and plums are a juicy part of New Zealand summers. Most of the crop is sold in the New Zealand market, but high prices are encouraging a growing export of some fruit.

Story by Marie Dawkins
Main image: Black Doris plums

Story summary

All images & media in this story

Stone fruit, also known as summerfruit, include:

  • apricots
  • cherries
  • nectarines
  • peaches
  • plums.


Peaches originally came from China, and apricots and cherries are also native to Asia. Nectarines came from central Asia. Different kinds of plums came from China and Europe.

Early stone fruit in New Zealand

The first European settlers found groves of wild peaches along rivers in the North Island. No-one knows when they were planted, but it was probably by explorers or early 19th-century whalers or sealers.

The first commercial peach orchard was planted in 1840. Other kinds of stone fruit were also grown from the 19th century.


The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research studied different kinds of peaches, nectarines, apricots and plums to see which grow best in New Zealand. Summerfruit New Zealand, which is an organisation for growers, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry have been trying new ways of growing fruit using less chemicals to control diseases and insect pests.

Growing regions

Most stone fruit is grown in Hawke’s Bay and Central Otago, because these areas have the climate the fruit need:

  • cold in winter, so flowers will develop into fruit
  • not too cold or windy in spring
  • warm days and cool nights for fruit flavour to develop
  • dry during harvest time.


In 2007 there were about 350 growers, with a total of 2,000 hectares planted in fruit trees. Most grow more than one type of fruit.


Most stone fruit is sold in New Zealand but sales overseas are increasing. Fruit is sold to Australia, Taiwan, the United States, Europe, Thailand and Japan. Most exports are of apricots and cherries.


New Zealand imports some stone fruit from the United States and Chile, mainly during times of the year when New Zealand fruit is out of season.

How to cite this page:

Marie Dawkins, 'Stone fruit and the summerfruit industry', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 20 June 2024)

Story by Marie Dawkins, published 24 November 2008