We were staring down the barrel of an extended dry period after April became the third successive month of below normal rainfall.  The region had less than half of average April rainfall and it had been a similar story in March and February.  Soil moisture levels were well below median levels for the month, particularly for areas south of Tangoio. The Bridge Pa site was particularly low and had fallen into the lowest 10th percentile of readings in the site’s record for the time of year.  April’s daytime temperatures had been above average and overnight temperatures near normal.  The lack of rain for three months meant that both river flows and groundwater levels were feeling the pinch.

Two-thirds through May and the picture was looking much the same.  The Heretaunga Plains had received less than 10% of May’s average rainfall.  How the tables turned in just a couple of days.  The Plains jumped to 171% of the long-term average and the region to 154%, with a few days of May to go.

We are exiting an El Niño phase and entering neutral conditions but there’s the possibility of us later transitioning into a La Niña phase.  Despite this, the seasonal forecast models still persist with a predominant westerly flow for winter, based on a prediction of higher than normal pressure across New Zealand and lower than normal south of the country.  Sea temperatures along our coast are currently near normal for the time of year.  All of this results in a rainfall forecast of near or below average rainfall for the winter season and temperatures that are near or above normal.  The recent wet few days might be a harbinger of what we’ll get from a La Niña to come – hopefully not.

All the best,


Presidents Report:

The 2024 harvest season is over – a relief for many. Most growers will be happy with the way it went, weather was good, there didn’t appear to be any labour shortage issues and fruit was of good quality. Pest and disease incursions will be problematic for some key overseas markets. Putting all this aside, fruit growing (in its current state) is still a very difficult industry to be involved in. The margins are very narrow and even uneconomical in some instances. With increased costs in every area of our businesses we need to take a good hard look at what we are growing, our variety mix and the management of on-orchard efficiencies.

HBFA’s core team are heading to Taupo this week for a 2-day strategy retreat to re-set and look at how we can better serve our growers – especially in the current environment. The association is in a new season – We are 125 years old this year, a lot has changed. Ten years ago, everyone on the HBGA committee were individual growers running their own business, we now have only 4 growers who own their own growing business and 2 of them also have full time jobs working for other entities. We have a great team of men and woman on our board who add real value to HBFA. I also want to thank the large corporates who support their employees being part of HBFA and allowing them time off at times to help serve the wider growing community. Part of our strategy session in Taupo is to re-look at our constitution. There is new legislation in place for Incorporated Societies. With this in place now we need to amend our constitution to fit in with the law changes. At the same time our rules need up-dating as many are not fit for purpose in today’s fruit growing environment. We will keep our members informed of the potential changes as these will need to be voted on.

Last week HBFA hosted a meeting with growers to discuss the Regional Councils proposed rates increase. No one from HBRC’s management side came to present their case to us (invitations were sent out) 4 councillors came to talk through the issues – some for and some against the increase. One Hundred percent of our growers who turned up on the night were going to put submission into the council with a clear “NO” we are against the increase. Callum’s CE report will give more of the details around the proposed increase.

On the 6th&7th of June we will be hosting our HBFA Young Fruit Grower of the year competition. Tickets are on sale now so please hurry and book your tables or seats for the awards dinner night. This will be a great night where we support and celebrate our young up and coming leaders of our industry, and a night that we get to honour HBFA’s chosen nominee for the prestigious Joe Bell Tropey – (Services to industry).

By now most growers should have received their voting papers for the HORTNZ levy renewal either by mail or email. Email voting was sent out by IRO last week on May 15th. I encourage you to vote and give HORTNZ your support. As I stated in one of my previous PR’s, HORTNZ do an outstanding job of supporting the needs of all growers around the Country. If you have any questions or have not received your voting papers or email feel free to contact me.

HBFA held our first golf day last Friday at the Waiheke golf course. I was unable to attend but heard it was a great event with everyone walking home with a prize. We plan to build on this year’s event in the future. The reason we hold events like this is to bring growers and industry people together in an environment away from the orchard, to meet new people and have some fun. We have other events planned further into the year so watch this space.

Ngā mihi

Brydon Nisbet

Explore, Grow & Thrive – It’s been a busy month!

The Hawke’s Bay Fruitgrowers’ Association (HBFA) continues to nurture and promote our growers and the broader industry. Just this Monday, we had the pleasure of accompany the EU Ambassador, Lawrence Meredith (pictured second from right) and his team on a road trip of Hawke’s Bay. It was a fantastic day filled with fruitful discussions (pun intended), and we left feeling more optimistic than ever about the future of our industry. It was like a diplomatic mission meets a field trip – complete with orchard visits, tasting sessions, and plenty of laughs. Our convoy of fruit enthusiasts zipping through the bay thoroughly enjoyed visiting different Packhouses including Mr Apple, Rockit and Apatu operations.

Ambassador Meredith truly understands the challenges, actively working to help our kiwi growers gain access to European markets. The NZ-EU FTA takes effect on May 1, 2024. Starting immediately, duties will be eliminated on 91% of New Zealand’s goods exports to the EU, increasing to 97% over the next seven years. This agreement will open significant opportunities for New Zealand businesses, granting access to one of the world’s largest trading markets. We are an agile team of producers here in Aotearoa, who need to continually innovative to remain competitive. Here’s to growing global connections and making our delicious Hawke’s Bay produce a hit across the EU!


Recently, we had a good turnout at the HBRC rate increase meeting on May 13th at Twyford Hall. The room was well attended, and we had some lively discussions, with a few key Councilors, thank you for those who did attend, we appreciated it.

During the meeting, we expressed our concerns about several increases in HBRC rates that could significantly impact our industry and community. While it’s hard to gauge how many submissions will be needed to trigger change, we remain hopeful that our voices will resonate. After all, we’re pretty good at making noise – especially when it comes to protecting grower livelihoods.

Some stats that you may find interesting.

We take immense pride in facilitating robust discussions, but sometimes we wonder if our voice is loud enough. Nevertheless, we remain committed to ensuring that our concerns are heard and addressed.

Thank you to everyone who attended and contributed to the discussion. Together, we’re stronger and more resilient, and we’ll keep making our voices heard – even if we have to resort to smoke signals next time!


We are getting closer to our main event for the year, with the Young Fruit Grower of the Year (YFGOTY) competition on the 6th & 7th of June and our dinner details below.

Join Us in Celebrating the Future of Fruit Growing! Get your tickets now!

The Young Fruit Grower of the Year event is an incredible opportunity to witness the talent, dedication, and innovation of the next generation of leaders in our industry. These young competitors represent the future of fruit growing, and by supporting them, we are investing in the continued growth and success of our industry as a whole.

By attending this event, you will not only have the chance to network with fellow industry professionals but also to show your support for these young competitors who are pushing the boundaries of what is possible in fruit growing. Your presence and support will undoubtedly inspire them to continue pursuing excellence in their careers.

We hope to see you there as we come together to celebrate the future of fruit growing.

Tickets available via Eventfinda https://www.eventfinda.co.nz/2024/young-fruit-grower-of-the-year-awards-evening/hastings

 or email us directly on events@hbfa.co.nz

Date: Friday the 7th of June

Time: 6.00pm

Location: Toi Toi arts and events center

Tickets: $130 per head / $1300 for a table of ten. Tickets include a canape and drink on arrival, a three course meal and drinks throughout the evening.


Consultation on the 2024-2034 Hastings (District Council) draft Long Term Plan closes Monday, May 27. Have your say!

This budget strongly focuses on infrastructure and proposes a 25% rate increase for the 2024/25 year. Of this, 8% is dedicated to recovering from Cyclone Gabrielle, while the remaining 17% will primarily fund sustainable infrastructure projects and service debt. To see the impact of the proposed rate increase on your property, click here.

Our rates are shared across a huge range of projects and facilities. To help you understand where the money goes, click here to see how each $1000 of rates is averaged out for an urban property.

Well-being: At the Heart of HBFA & HAG

The well-being of our community remains our priority. Considering the pressures of the industry and life’s uncertainties, we’ve introduced well-being support initiatives post-cyclone. These initiatives aim to provide crucial services to help our growers and their families navigate these challenges.

Reach out for support

If you or someone you know is struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out. Contact me, Callum Ross, at HBFA, or directly connect with Wanda Douglas at 021 1700 506 or wandspsychology@gmail.com. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, and we’re here to support each other.

As a collective, we can face any challenge and emerge stronger. Let’s stay safe, stay connected, and prioritize our well-being.

Warm regards,

Callum Ross

CEO, Hawke’s Bay Fruit Growers Association


Sarah de Bruin

May 2024

Winter stocktake of costs:

Do you know what you have spent this season? Cost awareness is vital to grower success at a time when input costs are high, and market conditions continue to fluctuate.

Use this post harvest and winter period, to sit down and cast your eye over your orchard’s numbers. Be sure to compare how they are stacking up against previous years and industry resources such as the MPI Pipfruit Orchard Monitoring programme.

Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of your own orchard business will help refocus for the new season and show areas or categories where you might be blowing out costs and others where you might be running well and efficiently. This then provides the background to enable good decision making and planning through the winter and into the next season.

Growers need to target quality fruit production, high yields of market targeted size, colour and high grade, in order to maximise available returns. Being cost efficient doesn’t necessarily mean cost cutting. For example, increasing productivity may sometimes involve increasing expenditure, however, ultimately this will provide you with more cartons to spread those costs over.

Some blocks warrant extra effort and potential cost, but in doing so can reward with a more profitable outcome. However, some do not. Understanding where your spending is going means you can make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck.

A chance to indulge the inner orcharding nerd

LandWise held its annual conference in Havelock North last week. Sally Anderson, Summerfruit NZ’s research manager, and I attended. The focus was primarily on cropping (tomatoes, peas, beans etc) but the ideas and technology available cross over to tree crops, more often than not. While the toys and techniques have cross over, the recognition that we are all playing in the same environment, be that physical, legislative or consumer spaces, is just as important.

One of the free tools that was discussed is called Environmental Impact Quotient (EIQ), developed by Cornell University. This is a grower support tool for measuring the overall impact of the sprays that are applied. It does this by assessing and giving a value to the potential effects on people and the food we eat, as well as on animals and the general environment.

The last A-Lighter-Touch (ALT) gaps meeting highlighted the huge amount of copper that stonefruit growers apply annually, in comparison to other product groups. As a result, this type of tool will help in understanding where we are at, and what then might be changed to help meet consumer expectations.

Other presenters spoke of the increasing global interest in products that induce, or up-regulate, plants’ own natural defence systems. We see this reflected in the global agchem companies buying biotechnology companies, thus integrating the knowledge of the smaller innovators and giving the innovators global reach.

A reflection of an integrated approach for bacterial control might look something like Actigard, followed by copper, followed by a bactericide, followed by AureoGold. During the LandWise presentations, we were told of the commercially available predators that are now available. To be fair, most of the progress has been made in the greenhouse industry but I suspect that it won’t stay there for too much longer. One of the lessons that’s been learned is that releasing two or tree species at once gives better control – much like using two fungicides to protect the efficacy of both.

The theme of the LandWise conference was Rebuilding Our Soils, a reference to Cyclone Gabrielle and the regenerative ag movement. Regen ag falls to some extent into the what the consumer wants type thinking. Regan ag has been in the pastoral/broadacre space for a while, with process crops now thinking about how the philosophies might be adopted. For permanent tree crops, we’ll need to think even harder about what changes could be beneficial. Of interest, McCains is now trialling paying growers a bonus for product that meets a number of biodiversity and environment markers. This circles us back to the EIQ tool, I talked about above.

Cyclone Gabrielle soil recovery work was reported on and a series of stonefruit orchards were presented as case studies. Much of this work is yet to finally tidied up, with one of the big questions being where to store the lessons learned so that they are readily available for the next time a storm of that nature comes visiting.

For the outside demonstration part of the conference, there were drones spraying crops, robots pulling weeders and sprayers, fancy lawnmowers, nozzle technology for travelling irrigators, and crimping rollers that might be used instead of mowers.

So as an industry, how are we fairing? Probably not to badly compared to some but we have a few areas that need attention. Many of these are being picked up by the ALT-Summerfruit NZ collaboration looking at softer chemistry, sorting out which bio stimulants might be efficacious, the understory plantings, and keeping a weather eye on market requirements. Keeping a weather eye on other product groups seems like an easy way to get some wins too.

In the vein of sharing ideas, we have a visiting expert in Hawkes Bay on Tuesday 2 July and an industry get together that same evening at Black Barn. Please see Prunings for more information. We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible there.

Richard Mills

Just as the harvest season winds down, so EIT ramps up.  We and your students have a busy six months ahead.

Level three fruit production students are back in class with Steven studying soil, and moving on to botany.  This class has been split into two groups to ensure we can run effective practical sessions.  The level 4s have completed their first of six courses, and will be starting Crop Protection with Chris Thorman in next few weeks.  

You should be receiving a monthly Trainer Update that lists exactly what assessments they have, and what support they may require from the workplace.  

We have a small group of first years, who will be working on fruit support structures here at EIT, as we are putting in a micro-orchard in the front paddock, with a small range of trees and structures.  This will give us a space for tractor and hydro practicals, as well as some trees to play with. Much appreciation to Goldpine for donating the posts, and Genesis nursery for plants to fill the trellis.

EIT professional development Level 5 Management Programs  

 A reminder that the level 5 programs are made up of individual courses and anyone can join the classes for a single course at any time. Contact nhartley@eit.ac.nz for delivery schedules. 

The level 5 Fruit Production students are working through the research topic module with Steven where they are carrying out a small trial and will report on their findings as part of their assessment. Their managers will be invited to hear the report.

The Leadership Qualities Module starts on Wednesday 22nd of May. Students will be discussing what makes a good leader, reflecting on their leadership styles and working through the components that help make good leaders. Anyone interested in joining us should speak to their managers or get in touch with Chris EIT now. 

The 2024-2025 Level 5 Post Harvest year begins in July, anyone interested in joining this program should contact nhartley@eit.ac.nz 

Finally the Post Harvest 2023 – 2024 students need to be getting any outstanding assessments in by the end of June.

Chris, Steven and Natalie

Commodity Levy Order: Thank You!

A huge thank you from NZAPI for all the interest, input, feedback, and votes.  During the consultation and referendum process it was gratifying to receive lots of positive feedback about the excellent service and support we provide – thank you.

The referendum closed on Friday 3 May and NZAPI received 98% support for a compulsory levy on apples and pears.

An application has been submitted to MPI, which will be reviewed as per the Ministerial timetable (Minister to consider, a new levy order drafted, then approved by cabinet).

Growers will be notified in the NZAPI Weekly Update, and on the NZAPI website, when the new order comes into force (approximately January 2025).


Only ten days left to book at early bird rates for the NZAPI annual conference (special rates end Friday 31 May).

This year the conference is right in our backyard!  From 29 – 31 July, at Toitoi Hawke’s Bay Arts and Events Centre, Hastings.

The theme – Reset, Growth, Ambition – reflects the challenges and opportunities facing the apples and pears industry, and the sector’s ongoing commitment to building a more sustainable, productive, and inclusive food sector.

Don’t miss the valuable networking and opportunities to share information with industry colleagues, friends, and suppliers.

Check out the NZAPI website for more information – we look forward to seeing you there.

Grow, Explore, Thrive – Let’s get out and about

This captures the essence of the Hawke’s Bay Fruit Growers Association and reflects our commitment in a time of swift transformations and significant challenges, we uphold our commitment to the well-being and success of our growers and the broader industry. I take pride in reflecting on our collective progress, the obstacles we confront in a challenging market. Together, we continue to forge a path of growth and resilience.


I want to take a moment to thank Brydon Nisbet, the President of the Hawke’s Bay Fruit Growers Association as he continues to demonstrate exceptional resilience and dedication throughout a challenging year post Cyclone Gabrielle, his outstanding support and on top of managing a significant harvest cannot be overstated. Brydon recently took a well-deserved break to visit family overseas, reflecting on the monumental year. His commitment has been crucial in advancing our growth, providing valuable support and mentorship. His proactive leadership and enthusiasm has significantly influenced the organization, inspiring the team and emphasizing the importance of nurturing future leadership. His efforts continue to energize and unite the HBFA community.


We are getting closer to our main event for the year, with the Young Fruit Grower of the Year (YFGOTY) competition on the 6th & 7th of June. Over the last few months, the HBFA team has also been planning new events for our growers. Keep an eye on what’s coming this year including, a bit for everyone! Including rugby events and some special events that will provide some great insights for growers. Our first new event is the Orchard Greens Classic Golf Tournament! I should mention I’m no Ryan Fox more a happy Gilmore kind of guy, so please keep an eye on me as I navigate the course in a golf cart, it will be great to get around and meet you all! Details below.

Orchard Greens Classic Golf Tournament!

Get ready to tee off with us where well-being meets recreation. Join us for a swinging good time at the HBFA Golf Tournament on May 17th, hosted at the beautiful Napier Golf Course in Waiohiki. This isn’t just your average tournament—it’s an opportunity for local growers to come together, network, unwind, and get away from the daily grind. This event is our treat, fully funded by HBFA, so you can take a break from the orchard and enjoy a day on the greens. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, all skill levels are welcome! Sign up solo or gather your team, and let us handle the rest. After the tournament, stick around for the prize-giving and a delicious light meal. Don’t miss this chance to unwind and connect with your fellow growers, courtesy of HBFA.

Friday, May 17th, 2024 11.30 am start

Napier Golf Course – Waiohiki

This will be an 18 hole Ambrose style tournament, shotgun start. Please note that numbers are limited so completion of the form below does not guarantee automatic registration. After submitting your form, we will contact you to confirm your spot.

Let’s make this a day to remember!

Register here


The HBFA continues to engage with key stakeholders on challenges and advocating for growers where we can. We are constantly monitoring the TANK water permit process and aim to keep you informed and prepared.

Well-being: At the core of everything we do at HBFA & HAG

At the Hawke’s Bay Fruit Growers Association & HAG group, we place the well-being of our growers at the forefront of our priorities. Recognizing the significant pressures brought on by the industry’s demands and life’s uncertainties, especially in the aftermath of the cyclone, we have implemented a series of well-being support initiatives. These programs are designed to offer essential services that assist our growers and their families in overcoming these challenges. Please watch this space for future updates.

Seeking Support

If you or someone you know is experiencing difficulties, please do not hesitate to reach out for support. You can contact me directly, Callum Ross, at HBFA, or get in touch with Wanda Douglas at 021 1700 506 or wandspsychology@gmail.com. Remember, it is a sign of strength to seek help, and we are here to support each other through every hardship.

Together, we can tackle any obstacle and come out stronger. Let’s ensure we stay safe, stay connected, and keep our well-being as our top priority.

Warm regards,

Callum Ross

CEO, Chairman of HAG

Commodity Levy Order Referendum: Have you voted?

New Zealand Apples and Pears’ referendum is underway and closes on Friday 3rd of May, so make sure you have your say.

EVERY VOTE COUNTS!  We need to show maximum participation in the vote, so whether you’re a big or small grower, your input is vital.

More information on the Commodity Levy Order is available on the NZAPI website.  If you have any questions about the Commodity Levy Order, please email Karen Morrish, NZAPI CEO.

New Zealand Apples and Pears Conference 2024

This year’s apples and pears AGM and Conference will be held from Monday 29 to Wednesday 31 July, 2024 at Toitoi Hawke’s Bay Arts and Events Centre, Hastings

The conference will focus on a range of important themes:

The content will reflect the challenges and opportunities facing our industry, and our ongoing commitment to building a more sustainable, productive, and inclusive food sector.

The annual conference provides valuable networking and information sharing opportunities with industry colleagues and friends, as well as suppliers and government representatives. Register before Friday 31 May to secure special early-bird rates.

The harvest season for summerfruit is now well finished with the final plums being managed through stores. There were also some peaches and nectarines that had been on display for a good while, which on sampling, all had internal breakdown. This fruit is doing the reputation of the industry no good.

The A Lighter Touch programme continues to bring the various product groups together. Recently, at the Plant & Food Research fresh vegetable demonstration farm in Pukekohe, participants looked at a variety of approaches. We heard from Dr Charles Merfield on the importance of a biodiverse landscape, Dr Brad Howlett on native plantings to support beneficial insects, and Mike  Arnold with the LeaderBrand story to date, with their native plantings. The visit to the field highlighted some of the differences between field and permanent crops, not that there are many, and the similarity of how weather can mess up trials.

PDFs from the workshop can be found at Biodiverse planting on vegetable farms – A Lighter Touch (a-lighter-touch.co.nz) with videos of the presentations available shortly. These are well worth a look if you are at all interested in this space.

Charles Merfield again presented, this time at the SummerGreen meetings. Charles told us that weed control is an evolving space that we need to be aware of, as there is increased resistance and no new active ingredients available, but there is new technology to help. This ties in very nicely with our own understory management projects that are getting under way in Hawke’s Bay. These projects will compliment those already growing in Central Otago.

One of the other key presentations was from the Plant & Food Research pollination team at Ruakura. Some of the past work for summerfruit was reviewed. We then looked forward to some ideas to make pollination a more resilient process for our early flowering crops. The review of artificial pollination on stonefruit in the USA suggested that it’s all possible and useful, as a back up to insect pollination.

These presentations, as well as the other presentations, will be available on the Summerfruit NZ portal soon.

As has been a recent trend, product groups are working together where this makes sense. The sharing of ideas and trial work means we don’t all need to reinvent the wheel, which is the most efficient use of grower levy money

Richard Mills
Summerfruit Technical Advisor
021 632559