The horticultural data update, Fresh Facts, has highlighted some of the impacts Cyclone Gabrielle had on the sector this year, and efforts to better respond to such events in future.
The Fresh Facts 2023 report on fruit and vegetable production also identifies some shifts in planting patterns in New Zealand.
Land put into processed potatoes has dropped 20% to 3902ha, while the area committed to table potato production has lifted from 3000ha to 3600ha in the past year.
Over the past five years, however, total potato production has dropped by almost 2000ha, and 108,000t of produce.
The report notes Gabrielle had a material impact on 45% of Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne apple orchards in February at a critical time prior to harvest. However, in Hawke’s Bay this left 4400ha or 53% not affected, and able to be picked, packed, and exported successfully.
Data has been collected from 30 orchards across Hawke’s Bay to build a better understanding of the cyclone’s impact and how growers can mitigate against future cyclone risk.
Other key growing regions, including Waikato, Canterbury and Nelson-Marlborough, were left untouched by the weather event.
Gabrielle hit the apple sector after a period of exceptional growth, where the area planted had been increasing at a rate of 3.5% a year between 2012 and 2020, and growing in value by 12.5% a year.
Despite the impact of Gabrielle, the entire sector still managed to export $99 million of product, a lift of $4.4m from the year before.
Gabrielle’s impact on the lucrative squash crop was also evident in the Fresh Facts statistics, with a reported 3830ha of crop planted, well down on the usual 5500-6500ha planted in the past four years.
Total volume was almost half the usual at 32,000t. This came as both Japan and South Korea reported strong growth in demand in the past two years.
Of summer fruit, the statistics on cherries reveal an increase in plantings of the fruit over the past few years as new crops come on line for harvest.
Total hectares in 2023 were up 5% on 2022, and current area is 70% greater now than in 2019.
The sector is reporting that 55% of production is for export, which generates 75% of the sector’s value, with the main markets of Taiwan, Vietnam and China dominating.
The report has been taken over by United Fresh from HortNZ and Plant & Food.
The New Zealand pan-produce sector group covers the production, wholesale, retail and service sectors of the fresh produce industry. Fresh Facts’ new publication date of September means it now more thoroughly covers the sector’s main growing season for more produce.
Overall, the report reveals a mixed year for the country’s produce exports, with Green kiwifruit back $220m in 2022, while Gold was up $80m and avocado sales fell by $31m or 28%.
Overall fresh produce exports totalled $4.5 billion for 2023, compared to almost $5bn in 2022.
The full report can be viewed here.