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Matthew Jones



NZ apple industry weathers the storm

Growers happy to get what looks like a solid sales campaign underway

NZ apple industry weathers the storm

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Despite Mother Nature's best efforts to intervene, New Zealand's apple industry is generally pleased with how this season's crop has shaped up.

Growers in New Zealand's Tasman region (on the north coast of the South Island) were on high alert in late January when the tail end of tropical cyclone Fehi made landfall, just over a month out from harvest. The storm brought a significant amount of wind and around 200mm of rain to the region according to Heath Wilkins of Nelson-based Golden Bay Fruit, which lost several hectares of Pink Lady in the weather event.

Less than a month later, the remnants of ex-tropical cyclone Gita swept through the same area, albeit with a slightly more devastating impact.

"The eye of the storm passed right over the Nelson area," Wilkins explained. "This cyclone (Gita) was more destructive than the previous one (Fehi) and several orchardist in the Riwaka region suffered significant damage due to blocks being washed away.

"At Golden Bay Fruit, our growers fared better than most, with the majority escaping any major damage."

As Wilkins suggested, the damage inflicted, while severe, was isolated to specific orchards in this area, meaning it won’t make a large dent in overall volumes out of New Zealand this season.

In fact, Wilkins said Golden Bay Fruit's crop volume was estimated to be in-line, or even slightly larger, than historical averages.

"The main impact [following the storms] is that we have to make sure we have fruit available for our customers that meets/exceeds their standards,” he explained.

"We are selecting our blocks now that are showing the best attributes to ensure that we target the right fruit to the right customer to meet these specs."

Further north in the Hawke's Bay, growers have been greeted with relatively favourable growing conditions, with the harvest beginning a little earlier than the last couple of years, bringing it more in-line with traditional start dates.

"So far, 2018 has been an exceptional growing season in the Hawke’s Bay with excellent quality across all varieties," noted Ben McLeod, retail sales manager at Mr Apple. "We remain on track to meet our volume forecasts for the season.”

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