Birchwood Packhouse Limited is a niche post harvest operator which provides orchard management services, packing and coolstorage facilities to the kiwifruit industry. Located in Katikati, the company was incorporated in 1987 with just four foundation shareholders.
In 1992, due to a downturn in the kiwifruit industry, and in response to clients’ requests, the company took over the management of some orchards on a share cropping basis. In 1994 the company reviewed its structure due to the fact that three of the four original shareholders had sold their orchards and relinquished their interest in the industry. To ensure continuity of market share and production levels, Birchwood was purchased by its grower clients. Two grower directors were added to the Board - and the company was subsequently registered as a co-operative in 1997. It now packs well in excess of one million trays of export kiwifruit.
Packing in the late 80's
As part of Birchwood’s strategic planning, the directors recognised the company had reached a watershed in its development. In response to this, and the developments within the industry, it sought out a cornerstone investor shareholder – DMS Progrowers Ltd, a successful industry leader. Shareholders approved DMS taking a 25% share in their company in October 2007 – and the injection of capital has assisted with extensions and upgrades to the existing facility, and the construction of new, state-of-the-art 800,000 tray coolstores.
The new Board consists of two DMS members, three Birchwood co-operative members and an independent chairman. This has brought a high level of expertise and knowledge to the business - and confidence for the future.
Strong partnerships between Birchwood and its client growers are essential to maximise returns. Focus has been on developing a total service from skilled orchard management through to communication, modern packhouse systems and coolstore facilities.
As a co-operative, Birchwood provides the best opportunity for its growers into the future – together with transparency in an industry which is becoming increasingly complex. Orchard gate returns currently achieved demand the post harvest business offers the best possible price for its services – and grower shareholders stand to add to their returns by way of rebates on packing and efficiencies achieved by a lean management team. Birchwood is well positioned to meet any challenges that may arise in the future.