Apple growers dodge worst of drought

CATHERINE HARRIS
Last updated 16:54 07/03/2013

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Apple growers look set to escape the drought's ravages and enjoy a bumper season, as the harvest gets under way.

Harvesting began in mid-February and the fine weather has led to a larger and tastier crop. Forecasts for the export crop are 16.9 million cartons, up 6 per cent on last year.

"I think we're going to get a pretty good quality crop with this weather ... and also reasonably good from a market perspective as well," said Peter Silcock, chief executive of Horticulture NZ.

Other factors on the side of apple exporters this season include a global shortage of apples which should keep apple prices firm, and greater demand for Kiwi apples in Asia and the Middle East.

Luckiest of all is that growers appear likely to dodge the worst of the drought.

About 60 per cent of the export crop comes from Hawke's Bay, which has just been declared a drought zone.

But Silcock said council restrictions on irrigation have only just started to come in.

Most growers had access to irrigation water, and while restrictions might affect crops going forward, they would not affect mature trees.

"Impacts of the drought might be on next season's crop and there's always a percentage of the industry and probably a bit more at this time changing varieties. So if you've got new young trees, water's quite critical for them."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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