According to the latest ANZ Agri-Focus report, the industry forecast of a $100million drop in export earnings from apples this season — mainly due to a lack of labor to pick the crop — could be quite conservative. Some three million fewer cartons were expected to be exported and apple export returns to April were down 25% on the same time last year.
That was $88 million less apples exported by value, indicating the industry forecast for the full season might be conservative, said the report. The labor shortage New Zealand’s horticultural industries was facing had increased the need to invest in labor-saving technology to future-proof production systems.
With the borders closed off, it had been extremely difficult to find sufficient labor to pick and pack fruit this harvest season and export returns for some industries would be severely compromised because fruit could not be picked.
In the apple industry, the focus had gone on harvesting higher-value fruit. This means lower-return varieties such as Braeburn had been hit the hardest. Braeburn exports were forecast by New Zealand Apples and Pears to be 44% lower this season.
Export returns for apples shipped to Asia were down 18% year-to-date while exports to Europe were down 63%. It was extremely challenging getting product to Europe, but moving fruit to Asia was slightly easier.