Record apple season sets the stage for billion dollar export growth
Apple prices will fall as orchadists start harvesting a record crop.
It is going to be another big year for apples, Pipfruit New Zealand is expecting a higher volume than ever before for the crop, and weather conditions have helped quality.
Pipfruit New Zealand chief executive Allan Pollard said a crop of 584,000 tonnes of apples is forecast, which will break the previous record of 560,000 tonnes in 2004.
In 2004 the harvest came from 13,500 hectares of orchards, while this season's harvest would come from 9500 hectares.
Pollard said this showed a huge gain in productivity for the industry.
* Record high apple prices with supplies short, but more are on the way
* Apples in short supply across country
* Apples in Nelson up to $6 a kilo as prices hit record high nation wide
A Countdown supermarket spokesman said despite a late start to the season and record-high prices prices are expected to return to normal as apples become more available,
Countdown expected to stock a similar amount of apples to last year.
Pollard said the bulk of the apples harvest would be exported.
He expects 390,000 tonnes of apples to be exported this year, 68,000 tonnes sold domestically, and the remaining 126,000 tonnes would be processed as juices and secondary products.
The hundreds of millions of dollars in export returns would be injected back into the economies of Gisborne, Waikato, Hawkes Bay, Wairarapa, Nelson, South Canterbury, and Central Otago.
Despite hail storms in Nelson, the apple-growing regions have all increased quality and production - thanks to an abundance of hot days and cool nights, Pollard said.
Apples and pears are the first of the larger primary sectors to achieve the Government's goal of doubling exports.
Apple and pear exports have increased from $341 million in 2012 to about $720m last year.
The sector expects to achieve its goal of becoming billion-dollar exporter much earlier than the original target of 2022, and is already looking towards setting a $2 billion goal.
Exports have moved away from being dominated by North American and European markets and are now split between Western and Asian markets, Pollard said.
"In 2004, 84 per cent of apples went to North America and the European Union and only 13 per cent to Asia and the Middle East."
McGrath Nurseries chief executive Andy McGrath said he has seen a trend of more growers moving towards proprietary varieties and away from the apply types no one owns like gala, granny smith, galaxy and red delicious.
"As an industry we are maturing in our thinking, and realising we can earn more with licensed varietals that are better suited for a specific market, " McGrath said.
McGrath said the varietals coming out of New Zealand are lifting the bar in terms of consumer quality around the world.
He has developed his own apple variety called koru that he licenses to other orchards. He exports 250,000 cartons of honeycrisp and koru apples a year.
"What I think is that we are lifting the bar of consumer quality around the world."