Slow start to NZ apples

A slow start to summer has led to a national shortage of New Zealand-grown apples, with some supermarkets able to offer only fruit imported from the United States. The dearth of new-season apples has led to empty shelves in some fresh produce departments and seen a popular drinks maker switch to apple concentrate.

A representative of Pipfruit New Zealand, the organisation that supports New Zealand's apple and pear growers, said this year's apple harvest was between one and two weeks behind schedule.

Gary Jones said there was a natural variation of harvest times every year and the delay was nothing out of the ordinary. He said the harvest in Hawkes Bay would begin in mid to late February for the larger-volume export varieties such as Royal Gala. Pacific Beauty would be available now but were not grown in large numbers because of their shorter shelf life.

He said the delay would not affect prices but the harvest could end up being "compact and intense", meaning a normal number of apples would be harvested over a shorter period.

A lack of apples at Auckland fruit shops and supermarkets has been evident over the past two weeks, with at least five different stores offering slim pickings in the apple aisle.

At Countdown Metro on Auckland's Victoria St yesterday, only one variety of the fruit, imported from the US, was available in store. A company spokeswoman blamed the shortage on a cold, wet spring combined with a few hail events. "We're currently transitioning from overseas supply of apples to the new-season local apples, so customers may have seen fewer apples on shelf over the last week because of the late season.
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