New Zealand kiwifruit growers have experienced a big season, with volumes of the Hayward (Green) variety up significantly.
"There is a lot of fruit to sell," New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc. CEO Nikki Johnson said. "The Green is probably the talking point because it has just bounced back from last year. So, there is significantly more Green to sell than last year. The Gold is also up due to increased planting, but there's good taste, good quality in all varieties."
In the 2018 season, around 140 million trays will be produced – 20 million more than 2017. Ms Johnson adds that the extent of the increase in the Hayward variety was a surprise, as there was no real indication until late in the harvest season.
"There haven’t been significant plantings of the Hayward, and there has actually been a reduction in Hayward because of the cutover to Gold," she said. "It's just a reflection of different seasons from 2017 to 2018. If you compare the figures from 2016 to 2017, and then where we are at in 2018, there's quite a variation. There's no specific reason, apart from that it was a really good growing season."
Zespri released its August forecast, as it prepares to step up its international marketing programmes. The Green return is forecast at $5.47 per tray, the Organic Green at $8.67 per tray, Gold at $10.28 per tray and Green14 at $6.85 per tray.
"The growers are happy with the gold pricing, that continues to be quite strong," Ms Johnson said. "Hayward pricing per tray is likely to be down on last year, which is just a reflection of the increased volume. Zespri are working hard to maintain value for the NZ grower."
While conditions were mostly good, Ms Johnson says there was a bit of rain around the time of the Hayward harvest.
"It did disrupt the flow of things, but nothing significant," she said. "It did cause us some issues around labour, just because of the continuity and labour is obviously our biggest concern at the moment. So, anything that impacts on labour, impacts on our industry. So, inconsistency of work around rain delays is a big issue for us."
In 2018, Ms Johnson says the industry was 1,200 workers short at the start of the harvest, across the picking and packing. Realising that this will be an ongoing issue, the NZKGI last month published a report outlining the challenges the industry faces in securing staff, stating that an additional 7,000 seasonal workers will be required by 2027. This is to cover the increase in production from 123 million trays in 2017 to 190 million trays a decade later.
"It quantifies what we anticipate what labour requirements are going to be as the industry grows over the next 10 years," Ms Johnson said. "It's a major focus for the industry in attracting more people into kiwifruit and into permanent and seasonal jobs."
The peak kiwifruit industry body, which representatives 2,500 kiwifruit growers across the country will be working with the New Zealand government to develop a number of initiatives and incentives to increase the workforce.
Growers are just finishing the winter pruning season, as they work towards next year’s crop.