As the 2019 season draws closer, the New Zealand apple and pear industry is preparing for a modest year-on-year increase in crop volume.
Peak body New Zealand Apples & Pears has predicted a gross crop of 604,500 tonnes, 2.5 per cent up on last year, although average fruit sizing is expected to be smaller.
Growing conditions have been mostly favourable to date, with the season running around a week later than last year in Hawke’s Bay, while timing in Nelson is on par with 2018.
“Notwithstanding some hail in Central Otago, growing conditions across the rest of New Zealand this season have been very good,” said New Zealand Apples & Pears chief executive, Alan Pollard.
“Adequate rainfall means that all regions have good quantities of irrigation water, and sunlight and warmth are at some of the best levels that we have seen.”
A key to the success of the New Zealand apple and pear industry over recent times has been the diversification of its varietal profile. The move is largely aimed at catering to the preferences of consumers in Asian markets, where exporters are increasingly turning their attention.
“The broad portfolio of varieties that we offer has changed dramatically since the mid-2000’s, when Royal Gala and Braeburn accounted for almost 80% of New Zealand exports,” Pollard explained.
“Today, Royal Gala remains our largest export variety accounting for around 30 per cent of total exports. But varieties such as Braeburn continue to decline, with that particular variety’s planted area down 7 per cent over 2018 and expected export volumes down 8 per cent for 2019.”
Grafting to new varieties isn’t the only way the industry is driving production growth. The area planted in apples and pears continues to increase at about 3 per cent to 4 per cent per annum, and is now at 10,189ha.