Quality apples raise hopes of top returns

Last updated 13:00 05/02/2014

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Nelson apple growers are looking forward to a profitable season.

While the region's crop is down 3 per cent on last year, it is shaping up to be good quality.

"It's looking very good," said Pipfruit NZ business development manager Gary Jones.

While the volume was down, from 5.44 million export cartons last year to about 5.26m, the fruit was larger and quality good.

Nelson had "bits and pieces of rain every so often" which had helped, he said. "With the temperatures, apples don't like it too hot, so that has been good too."

It was a similar growing season to 2010-11. While it had been a bit wet in spring, the conditions were right for growing larger fruit.

While some export markets liked smaller fruit, it also meant they paid less. "With larger fruit the expectation from growers is they will get better returns."

Last year was a good year for grower returns, up $50 million from the previous year to $150m, and nationally pipfruit returned a record $500m.

"It has given an added confidence to Nelson and the industry nationally," said Mr Jones.

It had been a tough few years but despite that the industry had managed to increase prices in the market. Achieving $500m against considerable challenges now boded well for the next few years as Asia became more affluent, with many more consumers buying apples.

He credited the RSE scheme, now seven years old, which allows growers to use overseas workers, in making a big difference to the viability of the industry. Nelson growers employed between 800 and 900 RSE workers and would have a small increase this year.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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