Article by: Hari Yellina
New Zealand Apples and Pears (NZAPI), the industry group representing the country’s pipfruit growers, presented a crop re-forecast today that expects a 12 percent drop from the group’s pre-season expectation. The 2022 apple and pear crop was anticipated to provide the equivalent of 23.2 million export boxes (Tray Carton Equivalents, or TCEs, as they’re known in the business) for consumers in more than 80 countries in January of this year. That prediction has since been revised to around 20.3 million boxes, resulting in a $105 million decrease in export earnings. According to NZAPI CEO Terry Meikle, a perfect storm of unfavourable weather events in key growing regions combined with major labour shortages throughout the harvest resulted in growers not getting paid.
“While our crop may be reduced by roughly 12% from earlier forecasts, it is a credit to our farming community’s tenacity and capability that we are still likely to make the most of such a difficult harvest.” “Growers have not had the labour certainty they would normally have to maximise their crops.” The impact of the virus reaching crucial locations at vital times during the harvest, as well as the backpacker crew not being accessible, worsened labour shortages. “It was simply not viable to maximise crop volumes in this environment,” Meikle explains.
Hawke’s Bay, the largest apple-growing region, is predicted to be 15% lower than the January estimate, with its East Coast neighbour, Gisborne, faring the worst of the regions, down 20%, following substantial unfavourable weather occurrences. Throughout the season, Gisborne received nearly 530mm of rain in various occasions, while Hawke’s Bay received 321mm, making it “an exceedingly tough time for producers to manage their orchards,” according to Meikle. The growing season in Nelson has been rated as strong, with an anticipated 7% drop in the number of cartons produced due to trees that were destroyed by hailstorms in the 2021 season not producing a harvest this year.
While the weather gods were kind to apple growers in the South Island, port difficulties, shipping delays, and a scarcity of containers have all had a significant impact on the Nelson region. “Unfortunately, continued problems in the worldwide supply chain network, as well as a global inflationary climate,” Meikle continues, “look poised to continue to generate headwinds for our business in the coming months.” While this has clearly been the most difficult harvest in previous years, the perseverance of our grower community in producing high-quality fruit that provides a pleasant eating experience for our international and local clients is inspiring.”