Although New Zealand exports cherries, peaches, nectarines and apricots to 19 countries around the world, the sector is concerned a lack of labour and air freight due to Covid-19 could result in fruit being left unpicked, or it being stuck in New Zealand. The latter option would result in a flooding of the domestic market.
A paper published by industry group Summerfruit NZ said the impact Covid-19 was expected to have on labour and logistics in the upcoming season will mean that orchardists should consider growing "fewer and bigger" fruits.
Summerfruit NZ chief executive, Richard Palmer, said the sector had got most of last season's fruit to market by the time Covid-19 started causing significant disruptions. He said planning for the upcoming season was necessary to make sure the industry was prepared.
According to Palmer, growing fewer and bigger fruit would allow a high quality crop to get into key markets quicker and differentiate New Zealand's exports from overseas competitors. He said the key for growers would be to intensively manage this season's crop. This included setting fruit trees up correctly, with not too many buds on them as well as getting pest and disease control right.