A report released by the US Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA-FAS) has forecast New Zealand's apple and pear industry to make a "material recovery" during 2017/18, with production and exports set to rise.
Overall topfruit production is set to increase by 6 per cent to a forecast 586,000 tonnes, with exports climbing 12 per cent to 380,150 tonnes, the USDA noted.
"A combination of extra harvest area and favourable weather conditions so far during spring 2017 have set the potential for a large crop increase," the report stated.
This follows a 2016/17 campaign where overall topfruit production dipped 1.4 per cent on the previous year to 554,940 tonnes, with exports also down 3 per cent year-on-year to 340,700 tonnes – described the report as a 'weather-related crop reduction'.
The GAIN report predicted 2017/18 apple production would come in at at 573,000 tonnes, a 5.6 per cent improvement on 2016/17, boosted by factors such as an increased harvest area of 2 per cent and an early and substantial winter chill period combined with no real cold snaps during the August/September bud burst stage.
"Seasonal climate forecasts are predicting a neutral season, neither an El Nino nor a La Nina bias," the USDA continued. "This should have the main two growing areas Hawkes Bay and Nelson, reverting to normal summer and autumn weather patterns, which would mean a warm dry autumn conducive to fruit ripening.
The 2016/17 apple crop came in at 542,400 tonnes, 1.2 per cent below the previous year, caused by a more severe natural fruit drop than normal and a late harvest.
In terms of exports, the 2016/17 campaign saw shipments fall 2.9 per cent to 337,000 tonnes – a figure deemed "surprising" by the USDA given earlier optimism but still "in line with the reduction in total production".
However, exports are expected to resume an upward trend in 2017/18, growing 11.6 per cent to 376,000 tonnes, and if realised this would surpass the record export volume of 358,327 tonnes set in 2004.
The EU, UK and US were the leading apple importers in 2016/17, although the US actually brought in nearly 22 per cent less product than in 2015/16.
New Zealand's pear harvest is predicted to yield some 13,200 tonnes, up 5 per cent on the prior year, when production stood at 12,550 tonnes - a figure 10 per cent down on 2015/16.
Exports are forecast at 4,150 tonnes, which would be a 12 per cent lift on 2016/17. Taiwan and the US are the main recipients of the country's pears.