A QUICK sale of Derwent Valley cherry-grower Reid Fruits is anticipated following last week’s announcement that the 160-year-old business was on the market under a world-wide expression of interest process.
Reid Fruits managing director Tim Reid said the business now had 136ha of cherries under cultivation, representing almost 10 per cent of the Australian cherry industry. This year the company accounted for close to 20 per cent of the total Australian cherry exports and the largest single Australian exporter into Japan, Korea, Thailand and India.
“Reid Fruits has developed a phenomenal reputation in Asia for the quality of our cherries,” Mr Reid said. We have our main orchards in the Derwent Valley and in recent years have developed a late harvest, 36ha orchard at Jericho, which includes 4ha of orchard under a retractable roof,” he said.
Mr Reid said recent investment had seen $4.5 million spent at its new Jericho orchard, with a further $3 million planned investment in upgrading plant at the company’s packhouse facility in Huonville for the 2017-18 season. “The business is now at a stage where we will grow two or three-fold in terms of production. Now is the ideal time for a new owner to come on board and drive the growth opportunities we have created,” he said.
Primary Industries Minister Jeremy Rockliff congratulated Mr Reid on his announced retirement and sale of his company. “Tim is a true legend of Tasmania’s fruit industry, building Reid Fruits into a Tasmanian success story and an iconic local business,” Mr Rockliff said.
“No doubt the decision to sell the business would have been a very difficult one for the Reid family, however, the fact that there is such interest in the business already shows that there is strong confidence in the Tasmanian primary industries sector and more broadly, growing confidence in Tasmania’s role as a producer of premium, fresh produce,” Mr Rockliff said.
Mr Reid, who turns 65 this year, has been working in the industry for the past 50 years, since starting in Reid Fruits’ apple orchards stacking boxes as a 15-year-old schoolboy. Reid Fruits celebrated its 160th anniversary in 2016.
“The company has reinvented itself a couple of times in that period; in the 1970s we lost the UK market and planted new apple varieties for Asian market. Then in the late 1990s we transitioned our business to cherries, moving into the Derwent Valley in 2000 with our first cherry orchard.” Since then more than 100,000 trees have been planted on the 500-acre property at Plenty.
Mr Reid paid tribute to his 20 full-time staff, which swells to more than 600 in the cherry-picking season. “We have a magnificent and highly-skilled team here at Reid Fruits. The business is now effectively self-managed and it’s time that someone else stepped in to drive this exciting new phase of the company’s history.”
Mr Reid said he was proud of what the entire cherry industry does for the local economy. “The amount of money the cherry industry brings into and invests in the state is significant … through agricultural merchandise, packaging, engineering services and framing services … and for the majority, the money we earn is reinvested in the continued growth of our businesses.”
Mr Reid said he expects the EOI process to be finalised in late October/November. “If we don’t get a reasonable bid for the company, we will keep it going because the market growth opportunity for the entire industry is very good. The demand for Australian cherries internationally is predicted to have an accumulative annual growth of 31% for 2016-21.
“The market for high-quality, wonderful tasting fruit is already there. But the health attributes of cherries and their juice is only just being realised and that will create further opportunities for growth in the Asian market.”