The apple harvest is now complete in New Zealand. The Nelson region had a great harvest and was back to full production across the board. The Hawkes Bay region was hit hard by the cyclone back in March right at the start of harvest, but the resilient growers worked hard to pick the best quality fruit for export. The middle to later season varieties seemed to ‘weather the storm’ well and quality was good, according to Kurt Livingston from Fern Ridge Fresh.
"There was the obvious flood related damage, but after the cyclone we had 6+ weeks of stable weather in Hawkes Bay which allowed the growers to get the fruit harvested without any weather pressure."
Originally it was thought volumes would be down by 15% due to Gabrielle, the final numbers are not yet known, but the losses to the Hawkes Bay volume will more likely be closer to +30%.
"Growers have approached their clean ups differently depending on the type and scale of the damage, with some getting in with excavators immediately to clear out silt from the orchards, others have more difficult challenges with tangled trees, posts, wire, and debris. The clean-ups aren’t cheap, and growers will need more Government support to help get through, said Kurt.
The Asian markets were solid for the early apple varieties, and resulted in some higher returns that were much needed for NZ growers.
"We have seen the pressure come on in the market in the recent months with various countries going through economic challenges. This has slowed up the sales for the NZ apples, but we are confident about the quality holding until the markets strengthen, which we expect to be sometime soon. With the volume of New Zealand apples being so far down, we are starting to see a shortage of certain varieties in market, which should help to build demand for the later marketing window.
"China was good early on but has slowed since. We are starting to see signs of life in the market again and are expecting things to be solid from June onwards as the shortage in volume is felt."
Vietnam has again been a main target for New Zealand apples, particularly the premium club varieties. Kurt said that it has been a slower year in Vietnam, but there is always a home for good quality high end varieties. The commodity varieties have certainly experienced some price competition in Vietnam.
The South African Gala has been prominent in the Asian markets this year, and the quality looks to be good in general, this has presented healthy competition in the market.
The growers in New Zealand have had a very tough season, with the additional costs of loss and then repair after Cyclone Gabrielle, they have also had skyrocketing labour costs, with the minimum wage going up on the 1st of April (during harvest), and having impacts on all production aspects of the apple supply chain. These costs are expected to keep increasing into next season. Shipping costs have eased slightly this season which has certainly helped the final return to the grower.
"Our goal moving forward is to increase the value of all NZ apples, so we can return profitable prices to the hard-working growers here in NZ. We need to continue to tell our ‘clean green New Zealand story’ to customers and to the end consumers, so they understand and appreciate the true value of our high-end produce."
For more information:
Fern Ridge Fresh
Tel: +64 6 651 2646