Monday, February 26, 2024

Good as apples for 2024 harvest

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Crop volumes looking up as kind weather helps heal devastated HB industry.
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The fortunes of the pipfruit sector appear to be lifting after last year’s disastrous weather events, with crop volumes estimated to be ahead of pre-Gabrielle levels.

Karen Morrish, CEO of NZ Apples and Pears, said estimates are that this year’s harvest, which is just kicking off, is likely to be 12% ahead of the 2022 harvest, and over a third greater than last year’s crop.

Export volumes are estimated at 21.2 million boxes, or 382,000 tonnes, and reports from orchardists are that fruit quality is of a high standard, with a high dry matter content ensuring good storage ability.

“Last year the Hawke’s Bay lost 610ha of orchard area to Gabrielle, or around about 10% of the region’s planted area, and in terms of national area we are down 2%. 

“Despite the loss of orchards in Hawke’s Bay, we have experienced growth across almost all areas of the country in plantings.”

Overall, 53% or 4400 hectares of Hawke’s Bay orchards, were not affected by Gabrielle and were able to continue to pick and pack apples last season.

Morrish said that after Gabrielle many affected growers had to dig their orchards out of silt.

“It is amazing and surprising to see where we are today after where we were a year ago. Apple trees have proved to be resilient and so too are our growers.”
She said the gains offsetting Gabrielle’s impact also reflected the momentum in plantings that had gathered prior to covid-19, driven by greater investment. The latest crop gains reflected those plantings coming on stream.

Gisborne has now moved to be the country’s third largest apple growing area after Hawke’s Bay and Nelson, with recent investment coming into the region for high-value varieties including Rockit and Dazzle varieties. Two thirds of the sector’s exports are now shipped out of Napier.

“It has been a good season right from the start. Growers have reported they had a very kind spring, summer has had good rainfall alongside sunny weather. ‘Kind’ is a word I have heard used a lot this year.”

The intense labour constraints felt by the sector during covid-19 have eased significantly, and growers offering accommodation are well placed she said.

“There has also been a significant lift in backpackers visiting – not in droves, but they are certainly back here.”
Early varieties of some apples area already being harvested, with harvest likely to hit full swing after Waitangi Day.

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